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The Loneliness Epidemic Is Ruining Innocent Lives

by | Mar 17, 2024 | Life

 I feel more lonely than ever.

It’s a weird feeling. I don’t like sharing it because it makes me look weak and I’m embarrassed. When you have a few million followers on social media, like I do, it sounds strange to say you feel lonely.

How does someone connected to so many people feel lonely?

Simple. We’re drowning in shallow connections and starving for deep relationships. Before the 2020 bat virus I used to go out a lot.

Now, during Monday to Friday, I rarely leave the house. On the weekends I stay close to my wife and daughter. We’ll meet friends once every few weeks if we’re lucky.

But meeting with friends is harder than ever. There’s so much resistance. It has to be the exact right time of the day. The location has to be perfect for all parties. The weather has to be nice.

These challenges aren’t the root cause. Our friends create these roadblocks because deep down they don’t love to leave their homes.

Something has changed.

Being alone is more comfortable than venturing out into the big, bad world full of war and politics. Technology makes things worse. It’s easier to jump on a Zoom call than it is to travel and meet someone in person.

But the connection from a Zoom call is nothing compared to the intimacy of touch, a hug, and watching others eat.

We have to fight this loneliness epidemic right now.

Loneliness is as dangerous as smoking

This statistic shocked me:

Image Credit-Our World In Data

Loneliness is bad for our health. Loneliness is why a lot of us feel terrible right now and we don’t know why.

As we get older our time alone increases.

Image Credit-Our World In Data

I’m 37 years old and right at the age on this graph where social connection falls off a cliff.

People get busy with getting married, starting families, or managing toddlers (like I am) who throw their spaghetti at the wall and smile.

The good news is we can fight loneliness and reclaim the happiness we get from connecting with other humans.


How to Win the War Against Loneliness (And Reclaim Happiness)

Here are some ideas I came across to fight back.

1. “Make a habit of reaching out to people just because they crossed your mind.”

(Colby Kultgen)

The temptation is only to reach out to someone when you need something. This is the default. It’s transactional. This is how we become needy and turn people away.

One way I do it is like this:

“Hey, you randomly came up in my thoughts today. Remember when we got drunk in San Fran and watched baseball in our undies? So funny. Anyway, no need to reply, just wanted to say hi.”

By removing the expectation of a reply you guarantee a response. There’s no way the other person won’t text you back. It’s a great way to take months or even years of silence and instantly create a spark.

2. Throw your phone in a lake

Phones are supposed to create connection.

We’re just one phone call, text message, or social media DM away from reaching millions of people. Yet our phones are a huge source of unhappiness and disconnection.

Why?

Phones exploit our natural dopamine levels. They give us cheap forms of dopamine that create short-term and speedy pleasure spikes.

But after the joy comes pain to counter-balance the spike (read the book Dopamine Nation). Notifications also hijack our attention too. They make our to-do list never-ending.

All the time we spend keeping up with our phone alerts and trying to stay on top of them robs us of the time we need to connect with humans.

3. Join a public speaking club

Toastmasters is a global public speaking organization.

It’s a place to connect with others and listen to speeches. There’s also an opportunity at every level to give your own speech. It can be anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes.

I’ve found when I feel lonely, public speaking helps me reconnect with society on a different level than all of the digital options.

There’s something about being in a room with beating hearts and shared oxygen that sparks my imagination and creativity.

The short speeches often become the starting point of new conversations that automate the hardest part of social interactions.

4. Artificially create moments that lead to nostalgia

The purpose of life is to experience things for which you will later experience nostalgia — Fed_Speak

Nostalgia is a powerful drug.

It’s what we remember the most on our death bed or right after a cancer diagnosis. A smart way to combat loneliness is to focus on what I call “intentional nostalgia.”

It’s the mindset you can proactively choose experiences that have a high chance of ending in nostalgia. In 2011, I chose to work in banking.

I didn’t do it because of the industry or a love of finance. I did it because I knew I’d meet interesting people and find myself in the process (because my startup exploded a few months prior).

This experience led me to working with the biggest names in Silicon Valley tech for 5 years. It’s a period in time that is deeply nostalgic for me and can bring me to tears if I think about it for too long.

Nostalgic moments can come from travel, camping, group events, nights out on the town, a group hobby, sport, etc.

When we choose to participate in these events, often, we bring ourselves closer to the magic of nostalgia.

Invest in nostalgia.

5. Become immune from loneliness with your calendar

If you look at someone’s calendar, it’s not hard to predict if they’ll become lonely. No scheduled social events is a huge red flag.

No work meetings is another one. No pre-planned holidays or date nights with your significant other are also flashing red sirens.

Our calendar is a tool. It houses our habits. If you schedule anti-loneliness events in your calendar, it’s less likely you’ll become infected by isolation and the depression it can cause.

Color-code social events in green. Make your calendar a sea of green for the next 12 months.

Conclusion

The data clearly shows loneliness is at an all-time high.

This doesn’t have to be a depressing fact. We can fight the trend and cultivate connection again when we make it a priority.

Half the battle is knowing how normal loneliness has become.

Once you see it you can’t unsee it. From here, it’s easier to take simple actions to combat the epidemic and prevent crippling loneliness. Easier said than done, though.

Now I’m off to put these steps into action to help with my recent loneliness. You should too.

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