While connecting with loved ones has been harder — and different to what we’re used to — it holds great power. “One of the most important things for feeling happier is our connections with other people..
“If we can do something that helps us to stay connected, that amplifies the feel-good effect that we get from other people. Feeling connected is so important for our wellbeing. Chronic loneliness can, in severe cases, be as damaging to our health as smoking or obesity. If you’re lonely that’s a signal that you need to connect with people. It’s a bit like if you’re thirsty you go to get a glass of water.”
What if I were aware of those who pass my way who are lonely? What would I do? Would I keep walking and ignore them? Or, would I offer a friendly greeting? According to researchers 58% of Americans feel that no one really knows them. And, 30% of older adults consider themselves lonely. Loneliness is not listed as a disease, yet, loneliness is linked to an early death, depression, poor sleep among others. What if we stepped out of our comfort zone and made a lonely person feel not so alone? A simple greeting can turn a person’s life around.
Strong, healthy relationships are important throughout your life. Your social ties with family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and others impact your mental, emotional, and even physical well-being.“We can’t underestimate the power of a relationship in helping to promote well-being,” says NIH psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Valerie Maholmes. Studies have found that having a variety of social relationships may help reduce stress and heart-related risks. Strong social ties are even linked to a longer life. On the other hand, loneliness and social isolation are linked to poorer health, depression, and increased risk of early death.
In an effort to ward off the loneliness that followed his wife’s death, a 94-year-old man in Minnesota decided to install a swimming pool in his back yard for the neighborhood children. His back yard is now a hub of activity in the summer, filled with laughter, splashing children, and their parents and grandparents. And he’s no longer alone. While not everyone would be willing to go to such extreme lengths to make social connections, contact with other people should still be a top priority. Chronic loneliness does more than just make you bored; it can actually harm your health. “The experience of being lonely appears to be bad for one’s health,” says Dr. Nancy J. Donovan, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and an associate psychiatrist at the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Loneliness is associated with depression, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, declines in mobility and daily function, and increased risk of early death.
There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives – the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them.