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Feeling Lonely or Isolated? You’re Not Alone.

By Joyce Cohen & Vicki Thomas

Loneliness and isolation have become a serious national issue, one of the most prevalent and unreported in the United States today. Morning Consult commissioned by Cigna, reports that 58% of U.S. adults are considered lonely, highlighting a growing crisis that spans demographics and age groups from children, teens, adults, and elders. The Economic and Social Research Council states that social isolation is a significant catalyst for depression and other forms of mental illness.

The Scope of Loneliness

Loneliness, defined as a state of distress or discomfort resulting from a gap between one’s desired and actual social relationships, has been caused by several factors. Covid pandemic lockdowns forced people to stay at home and work remotely. Children attended school at home or in small pods.  People were forbidden from visiting sick friends and family in hospitals, parties, get-togethers were non-existent which all increased loneliness, fear, and anxiety. Masks and faceguards prevented seeing facial gestures. Hugs and embraces disappeared as normal gestures of caring.  All ages were impacted.  Deprived of attending school, students fell behind academically.  Looking at the masked faces of adults in their lives, children couldn’t experience and learn subtle communications from facial expressions that we take for granted.  Teenagers were deprived of socialization with peers and normal school activity came to a screeching halt. College students, too, suffered.  Universities/colleges closed, forcing students to study at home often in an isolated atmosphere or one of competing noise and distraction. The pandemic is not the only cause of the recent isolation trend.  Check out these realities; see which ones resonate with your experience.

How Loneliness Manifests today

  • Living alone has dramatically increased (by 30% in recent years)
  • The loss of friends and family, increased illness, lack of sufficient physician/patient interaction, rise in telehealth appointments and digital transactions at the cost of human interaction.
  • Due to job loss and inflation, finances dwindled for many people, causing choices between buying food and meds vs personal care.
  • Many no longer have the means to indulge in entertainment, such as dining out, throwing a party, or attending a sports event.
  • Social isolation may cause an increase in drinking alcohol, poor eating, and avoiding exercise.
  • The perpetual Increase in using social media has exacerbated loneliness and depression as people tend to live more vicariously. Social Media platforms create an illusion of connection but often result in superficial relationships lacking depth and emotional support.
  • Those who are addicted to mainstream news often feel dejected and saddened by constant tragedies reported daily in world events.
  • Screen time has taken the place of social interaction for many causing an upswing in isolation and loneliness.
  • Social media and other sources have distorted reality such that it is difficult to know what or who to believe. Confusion has stifled many from speaking out or getting involved.

Health Implications

The impact of loneliness on the individual psyche is particularly severe.  Loneliness often results in feelings of worthlessness, sadness, and despair which can exacerbate mental health conditions.  Lack of social support also hinders recovery from illness and decreases overall well-being.

Addressing the Epidemic

This pressing issue demands our attention and intervention. It is beyond a personal issue, but rather a public health crisis. By understanding the causes and consequences of loneliness and taking proactive steps to foster connections, we can improve the well-being of individuals and communities.  As the expression goes, “it takes a village,” and with our collective effort, sustained focus, and action, we can build bridges and create a more connected and healthy society.  Here are ideas to begin with that each of us can create.  

Cultivate A Strong Sense of Purpose

When we are grounded in our values, and identify what matters most to us, a foundation is formed that allows us to feel joy from within no matter what is happening around us.  We can grow confidently into the future. Ways to move forward with a renewed sense of self may include any of the following as starters:  

  • Improve self-care
  • Spend time in nature
  • Volunteer in an area of interest
  • Take a class
  • Plan a trip with friends
  • Visit local attractions
  • Revisit hobbies you enjoy
  • Keep good company
  • Avoid depressing people
  • Surround yourself with what makes you happy such as nature, art, music, cooking, handiwork, sports, gardening, writing, pets, favorite work
  • Heed signs, commercials, and social media campaigns providing thought starters to care for family, friends, and neighbors. One roadside sign in our community reminds all to “BE KIND.”
  • If you find yourself feeling lonely, use that loneliness to pivot into something spiritual that will put you back in touch with your purpose in life, and connect you with inner joy.  

Perhaps Pablo Picasso shed valuable light on the topic “The meaning of life is to find your gifts; the purpose of life is to give it away.”

Suggested reading:

Project Unlonely Healing Our Crisis of Disconnection     by Jeremy Nobel

Unlonely: How to Feel Less Isolated      by Claire Chamberlain

On Belonging; Finding Connection in an age of Isolation   by Kim Samuel


About the Writer

Joyce Cohen and Vicki Thomas are the founders of My Future Purpose (MFP), www.myfuturepurpose.com, a provider of life-planning solutions, dedicated to helping individuals lead lives of meaning and fulfillment.  Through monthly discussions, workshops, specialty programs, coaching, and resources, MFP empowers people to navigate life’s challenges, discover what matters most, and create a roadmap for a purpose-driven life

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