Alone but Not Lonely
Do you enjoy moments of solitude?
by Successful Aging in Action! | 10.4.19
Choosing to spend time alone can be a wonderful experience and provides the opportunity for self-reflection. Isolation, on the other hand, or even being among people who don’t understand you – well, that’s something quite different...
By: Danielle Palli
I love being alone. I can go for a silent walk on the beach, do yoga and meditation out on the lanai, practice the piano or work on my novel and not talk to a single person all day – without feeling the slightest bit lonely. But, here’s the thing. If I need to talk with someone or simply be with other people, I have a wealth of loving resources: my husband, a few close friends, some trusted family members – even my pets.
Choosing to spend time alone can be a wonderful experience and provides the opportunity for self-reflection. Isolation, on the other hand, or even being among people who don’t understand you – well, that’s something quite different.
When 20,000 people were recently surveyed in the United States, nearly half reported being lonely. One in four felt that no one understood them, and two out of five said they felt isolated or that their relationships lacked meaning. Another study revealed that 9 million people in the UK reported feeling lonely – an epidemic that is so damaging, that the UK appointed a Minister of Loneliness.
Why is this such a big concern? Loneliness is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, dementia and depression, and can increase the likelihood of mortality by 26%. Current findings suggest that the risk factor for social isolation is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
As Dr. Roger Landry, MD, MPH tells us in his book, Live Long, Die Short: A Guide to Authentic Health and Successful Aging, “we are hardwired to be together.” For me, that means having an abundance of casual friends and my inner circle of a few truly close connections. These are the people that Landry would describe as “the ones you can call at 3 o’clock in the morning and know they will be there for you.” In Dan Buettner’s book, Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons from the World’s Happiest People he describes those “inner circle, 3 o’clock in the morning” friends as your tribe and advises you to “find your tribe.”
How do you find your tribe? Here are some suggestions for ways to connect with others within your community.
- Pursue a hobby or interest.
- Volunteer for a cause you care about.
- Connect with a spiritual group who shares similar beliefs.
- Talk to your neighbors and invite someone to lunch.
- Walk your dog (if you’re afraid to approach people, your friendly, tail-wagging dog will most likely do that work for you).
- Sit at a community table at your local restaurant.
- Be open – When you smile at strangers, make small talk in the grocery store line or hold the door at the gym for the person behind you, you send the message that you are approachable.
Originally printed in Masterpiece Living's Fall 2019 Mosaic
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