Loneliness and disconnect is not good for us - let's reconnect
What image do you see when you think about the word "lonely". It often conjures up images in our minds of a fringe subset of society...the elderly, the homeless, even discarded pets. But deep down, we know: it’s you, it's us.
You might find yourself protesting, "I’m not lonely, none of my friends are lonely". Well, what happens if we update the word "lonely" to “disconnect”? What comes into your mind now?
It comes in many forms: endless scrolling on your phone? Going home early and posting #jomo... (really, is it true?). Going on holiday somewhere that you can’t afford but can’t admit to yourself, never mind anyone else. Looking at too much pornography even. Doing up your house, when it’s actually OK. Buying junk you don’t need. Another top or trainers when you have hundreds. Eating meat when you hate cruelty... yes that’s all disconnect. Because you're not being true - so you have to distract yourself so you don't have to face your own truth.
Loneliness and disconnect have so many forms. Like having everything, a beautiful partner, kids, home, car...but at the same time having an affair simply because you’re lost, disconnected. This last form of loneliness is called 'paradise syndrome': having it all but destroying it as you’re not feeling it. Or having it all and not being able to appreciate it - this is a variant called 'abundance paradox'.
Bottom line; some of us are not experiencing relationships the way we are programmed to. We’re losing the chemical signals from the heart.
And when it comes to so much of our communication happening through a screen, it triggers the chemistry of loneliness, in that it doesn’t trigger the oxytocin - the love drug in our system.
We’re not wired for this. There’s something called 'Dunbar’s numbers'. He worked out the optimum social circle number that we can have: 150. With 12 intimate and 5 close. It's hardly going to impress the big brands looking for an 'influencer'. But it’s what makes us happy. We took millions of years to evolve.
This irony is that we live in a hyper-connected society but the biggest battle we face is disconnectedness? How is it remedied?
Have you heard of the 'blue zones'? - they’re places like Sardinia or Okinawa in Japan; they’re places in the world where people live longer. One of the big things they all had in common was ‘sharing the love’. But it’s not about being loved as we might think, it’s about giving it! Yep, giving the love is the route to a long, healthy and happy, connected up life!
Managing feelings of anxiety and emptiness
So how can we get rid of that anxious empty feeling? That abundance paradox, that loneliness? There are so many ways. We need to be aware of connecting #inreallife. Here are some examples:
- When you send a work email to someone you are in the same building as saying something like, “get me 10 copies of this by Tuesday” perhaps you could re-think it? We wouldn't talk like that in real life. Get up and speak to the person, as when we don’t we miss out on the 'compliment sandwich': ‘Hey how was your weekend, say hi to your GF for me" and so on. Don’t think this is wasting time: it’s connecting.
- Working from home? Just call or meet for coffee. Make a regular work bubble meet up.
- Volunteer - it doesn't have to be in the typical sense as it's not for everyone but doing good for others is important. Have you ever been to a gig or show and seen all the empty seats? Many are corporate. Why not take those unused tickets and, let’s say if it’s for Formula One - give them to a local school where the kids love tinkering - or better still, take them.
- Family - call in or ring that family member that you've not seen for ages. Connect.
- Socially - Netflix - move over. Meeting with friends over food is one of the best ways of connecting. But also displaying gratitude - don’t take it for granted. Show your appreciation. Say something nice to the person you're with. Meet someone new and find out about them.
- Therapy - you might find that talking to someone about feelings of disconnect and loneliness can be helpful. Together with a therapist, you can discover ways to reconnect with people and the world around you.
So why not go get yourself some oxytocin? Make a call, organise a meetup. Connect in real life - it's good for you.
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