Feeling isolated or lonely? Ever considered what loneliness does to the human condition? You are in good company. After recently reading several articles on loneliness in America, I was shocked at the findings that clearly show how isolation impacts our physical and psychological health. One article states:
“Since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent. One recent study found that isolation increases the risk of heart disease by 29 percent and stroke by 32 percent. Another analysis that pooled data from 70 studies and 3.4 million people found that socially isolated individuals had a 30 percent higher risk of dying in the next seven years…” *
A major take away from all the research on loneliness as it speaks into the truth that we were created for relationships. Given the importance of human fellowship, here are a few tips that are likely to promote positive, authentic connection with others.
Establish Realistic Expectations
Setting healthy expectations is one way to promote sincere relationships, and those things can be considered through discussion with others or independently. Possible expectations include: the nature or purpose of the relationship, people’s capacity and ability to maintain the connection, how much priority the relationship will need, the wide array of personality traits in the world, and respect for personal boundaries.
We live in a world that has way too many distractions, and I believe that those things have a direct impact on how our relationships are going. A very simple approach to combat those distractions involves a person’s willingness to apply moderation or stop those things that sabotage genuine relationships. I am certainly not condemning anyone’s participation in these things or judging the distractions themselves, but I wanted to provide a short list of possible interfering activities or devices: Smart Phones, Social Media, Binge Watching Television Shows, Emailing, Texting, Internet Perusing, Sports Gazing, Shopping, Video Games, and Wristband Gadgets.
Take Some Risks and Reach Out
Once realistic expectations are created, and after distractions have either been removed or moderated, the next step involves us reaching out and being open to others reaching out to us. Let’s face it, relationships take hard work, they can be awkward and fear of rejection is real. However, in order to build authentic relationships we must be willing to face these challenges. Often times you will find that it does not work out how you expected, but when a genuine connection is made it can blossom into a lifelong friendship. In the end, it is worth it.
Might I encourage all of us to trust that our hard work will produce the beneficial and life giving results that we are seeking? Remembering in all of our pursuits God created us for relationships.
“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” (1 Chronicles 16:10-11, ESV)
*Khullar, D. (2016, December 22) How Social Isolation Is Killing Us. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/22/upshot/how-social-isolation-is-killing-us.html
M.A., Licensed Professional Counselor- Mental Health Service Provider
Individual adults, adolescents and married couples. Trauma, spiritual issues, depression, anxiety, and addictions. EMDR and CBT.