If so, know that you are not the only one. Loneliness seems to be increasing in near epidemic proportions. In our upside down society, we have more tools to connect with the world around us than ever before, and yet, even with these advantages, so many find themselves isolated and disconnected. One researcher discovered that out of the 43% of people who reported chronic loneliness, more than half of them were married.
A study that took place on a hillside of Sardinia, found an interesting phenomenon. The structure of the village was such that residents had to go through the town square to get to the post office, the church, the store – to just about everything. As a result people had to interact with each other which created a tightly knit social fabric. Their connection is thought to contribute to their longevity, where they typically live three decades longer than their fellow Europeans as well as Americans.
So, how do we combat this tendency to live disconnected? I want to suggest two strategies today that come from the “social fitness exercise” out of the University of Chicago. Their overall theme was to help individuals identify behaviors that reinforced loneliness and substitute more functional behaviors. First, they instructed individuals who continually look down at their phone, to take that cue as a reminder to put down the phone and actively engage with people. Second, when a person finds themselves in a group where they tend to avoid conversation, to step out and ask a question instead. While these are just two practical steps, I will share more next time about a greater variety of strategies that can effectively be used to combat loneliness.