Feeling Alone and Finding Connection
Loneliness is an epidemic. An article, published in 2019, on the Health Resources and Services Administration website says, “43% of seniors feel lonely on a regular basis and there is a 45% increased risk of mortality in seniors who report feeling lonely.” A study published in 2010 by the PLOS Medicine journal found that social isolation and loneliness is as bad for your overall health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day!
Among the contributing reasons for this loneliness epidemic include “the average household size in the U.S. has declined in the past decade, leading to a 10 percent increase in people living alone… and 28 percent of older adults – now live by themselves.” However, today, we know a primary factor that is exacerbating feelings of loneliness is the COVID-19 pandemic. Between social distancing, wearing masks, and not being able to gather in large groups, we have been isolated in ways we’ve never experienced before. Even from our own families.
I’ve heard stories, as I’m sure you have too, of families making the hard decisions to not invite their loved ones over for a meal or birthday celebration because they don’t want to run the risk of infecting each other with COVID. The upside to this is physical safety, but the downside is feeling excluded. Perhaps you can coach yourself and acknowledge that your family is excluding you for your own well-being, but as quickly as you acknowledge it, just as quickly, you can’t help but feel that ache for connection.
Connection is the cure for loneliness. Not just physical connection, like being in the same room as another person, but deep emotional connection too. Often times, you feel that emotional connection from the people in your life that know the good, bad, and ugly sides of you and still love you wholeheartedly. These are the people you need to connect with in order to relieve those feelings of loneliness.
So, try making a list of those people. I recently spent a few moments writing down key people in my life who I feel known and loved by. 7 people came to mind in a matter of seconds. Writing their names down on paper reminded me that I’m not alone and when I feel alone, I need to reach out to these 7 people and connect. I have to take responsibility for my loneliness and meet people halfway.
Loneliness is real. Loneliness is hard. And loneliness doesn’t have to rule your life. Write down the friends and family that make you feel loved and known. Then connect. Give them a call. Write them a letter. Shoot them an email. Let them know how much they mean to you and why you feel less lonely when you connect with them. Being honest about your loneliness with those who love you may be the first step towards the connection you long for. It may bring healing in profound ways and might lead to an even deeper connection than you had before.
Peace be upon you,
Chaplain Travis Jamieson
 Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T.B., & Layton, J.B . (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS Medicine, 7(7 ), e1000316. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316.