Loneliness is a worldwide problem that seems to be getting worse the more we’re digitally connected. Britain has appointed Tracey Crouch as Minister for Loneliness to battle the isolation felt by more than one in ten people in the UK, and Australian Labor MP Andrew Giles recently addressed the loneliness epidemic in parliament, arguing that while government has appointed funding in the budget to combat loneliness among our aging population, the experience can affect anyone at any stage of life, young or old. The issue is even prevalent in America, where new research found that nearly half of Americans report feeling lonely always or sometimes. The same study also found that the loneliest generation is Gen Z - adults aged between 18 and 22 - one of the most digitally connected generations yet.
According to a recent Omnipoll survey of 1200 Aussies, we currently have 3.9 close friends on average. The findings are alarming, considering in 2005 a similar survey found the Australians to have 6.4 friends on average. Furthermore, A survey of people done by Lifeline in 2016 reported that 82.5 per cent of Australians felt lonely, and the current statistics seem to indicate the situation isn’t improving. A study done by Harvard in 2010 made the startling discovery that loneliness has the same effect on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
So what can we do to stop feeling so lonely?
Join a group
Committing yourself to one or a few social activities each week is a great way to reconnect with your friends or your local community. A once-a-week gym class that you attend with your friends, or fortnightly dinner date is a great start. Try joining local book clubs or hobby groups so you can connect with like-minded people and force yourself out of your personal bubble.
Exercise is scientifically proven to not only be good for your physical health, but your mental health too. Going out for a walk, a run, or going to a gym or health club will have you mingling with others who are there, even if it’s just a polite exchange of niceties.
Start a conversation
Rather than plugging in your earphones or scrolling through your phone on the train, strike up a conversation with a stranger. Perhaps it’s the same person you see at the coffee shop every morning, or the same person you see in the elevator on the ride up to your office. Moments of micro-contact with other people remind us we aren’t alone, and can make a big difference in the lives of others.
Volunteering your time at a local charity or community initiative is a direct way to reconnect with your community and contribute towards positive change.
Picking up the phone to call a friend or family member is the instant pick-me-up you didn’t know you needed. Even better, schedule in a skype or video chat with family or friends who are interstate or overseas.
Hang out with non-humans
Cats, dogs and other pets have proven benefits to our health. From lowering blood pressure and reducing stress to improving our quality of life, pets can have a profound effect on the mental state of their human companions.
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