In this post, I bring your attention to the health effects of loneliness and the importance of authentic, heartfelt relationships and equip you with some tools for building meaningful connections.
Loneliness is real
Authentic relationships can be rare in our lives. And loneliness is widespread. We live very independent lives and do not need to rely on anyone but pay for the high price of isolation and loneliness.
We are very busy too. Our work consumes a lot of time. And there is a family to care for, and hopefully, time is left for exercising. We get caught up in our daily routine, and there is hardly time left to connect with those who matter to us the most…
“I’m lonely. And I’m lonely in some horribly deep way and for a flash of an instant, I can see just how lonely, and how deep this feeling runs. And it scares the shit out of me to be this lonely because it seems catastrophic.”
― Augusten Burroughs, Dry
Especially older people can live lonely. But even younger people regularly experience loneliness and even more so since the beginning of the pandemic.
Statistical data demonstrates how often people from different countries experience loneliness or connectedness (see a graph at the end of this post). Surprisingly to me, the country where loneliness is experienced the most was Brazil, with very open and outgoing people and lifestyle, and the least in the Netherlands.
Health Effects of Loneliness
At the same time, it was shown that loneliness is closely related to depression which is the main cause of disability worldwide. Furthermore, both social isolation and loneliness are associated with increased all-cause mortality in older people.
Social Media on Relationships
Knowing this, it surprises me how often you can read on social media about better being alone than with the wrong people, like these:
“I no longer have the energy for meaningless friendships, forced interactions, or unnecessary conversations.” — Joquesse Eugenia
“I would rather be alone than with people who don’t care.” — Steve Price
“Let go of the people who dull your shine, poison your spirit, and bring your drama.” — Dr. Steve Maraboli
“Letting go of toxic people in your life is a big step in loving yourself.” — Hussein Nishah
Whereas there are far fewer posts about togetherness and connectedness, or the intentional creation of meaningful relations.
My Experience with Clients
Working with clients, I have seen that it is common for all of us to seek some sort of seeming safety in withdrawing and self-isolation. For that, we give up communication and connectedness; with this, we inevitably lose on quality of our life.
“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”
― Mother Teresa
Even my clients with an extensive social network and stable relationships do not experience sufficient connectedness, authentic, empathic, and heartfelt relationships.
Unfortunately, such disconnection and loneliness are directly linked to anxiety, fears, and depression.
Quality Time With Yourself
There is nothing wrong with being alone if you have quality time with yourself. There are many ways of enriching your life by spending time with nature, meditating, exercising, reading, writing, you name it…
“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre
But we definitely need to spend quality time with others. How much time you spend with yourself, and others will depend on your personality. Extraverts need more time to satisfy their communication needs, whereas introverts need less.
This could be the reason why outgoing Brazilians, Indians, and Italians feel more lonely than Germans or Japanese as the outcome of the poll shown at the end of this post.
Are You Lonely or Connected?
Tilburg Loneliness Scale
Here you can evaluate if you sufficiently satisfy your personal communication and connectedness needs using the Tilburg loneliness scale.
Just give an answer for each of the 11 statements, the extent to which they apply to your situation, and the way you feel now.
Possible answers are “yes+”, “yes”, “more or less”, “no”, “no+”
|Statement||YES+||YES||MORE OR LESS||NO||NO+|
|1. There is always someone I can talk to about my day-to-day problems|
|2. I miss having a really close friend|
|3. I experience a general sense of emptiness|
|4. There are plenty of people I can lean on when I have problems|
|5. I miss the pleasure of the company of others|
|6. I find my circle of friends and acquaintances too limited|
|7. There are many people I can trust completely|
|8. There are enough people I feel close to|
|9. I miss having people around me|
|10. I often feel rejected|
|11. I can call on my friends whenever I need them|
Then, compare the evaluations of statements 1/ 4/ 7/ 8, and 11 for inclusiveness and connectedness with those of statements 2/ 3/ 5/ 6/ 9, and 10 for loneliness.
Make your conclusion if you experience enough communication and connectedness or if you are rather lonely.
Independently of your test result, I invite you to do a challenge with me on building authentic relationships. Are you ready? Here it is:
- Contact every day a different person and have an authentic, heartfelt conversation.
- You can talk to a family member, friend, colleague, ally of any kind, or an absolute stranger, literally anyone. The more variety, the better!
- Great, if you can meet this person face to face. (Video) calling is also acceptable.
- Start with 21 days.
Extend if you enjoy it (and you will!). I guarantee that your life will be transformed!
How to Create a Connection
I am often asked how to connect in conversation and how to have a fantastic conversation. Here are some effective techniques.
Imagine entering a restaurant and observing communication between other people unnoticed. You will be able to tell who from them experiences genuine connection.
These people will look each other in the eyes, talk at the same pace, have a similar body posture, like crossed legs or leaning forward, and body movements like hand gestures, smiling, or perhaps laughing.
The mirroring technique is based on the principle that what assumes connection causes connection.
If you like to establish a connection faster, mirror the other person: the pitch and pace of the voice, body posture, movements, head tilt, mimics, gestures, etc. It is essential to be subtle.
How to have a fantastic conversation with literally anyone
I learned this from the great hypnotherapy trainer, Mike Mandel, which always works.
To have a fantastic connected heartfelt conversation:
- First, pretend that you are talking to the most amazing, fascinating person in the world
- And then pretend that you do not pretend any longer.
If you apply this, let me know in the comments below how successful you were!
- Loneliness is widespread in different continents and cultures
- Loneliness affects mental and physical health and increases all-cause mortality
- You can evaluate your loneliness and connectedness with psychological tests like the Tilburg test
- It is absolutely worth focusing on the intentional creation of authentic, heartfelt connections and relationships
- There are helpful techniques that make creating connections and having amazing conversations easy
- Steptoe A, Shankar A, Demakakos P, Wardle J. Social isolation, loneliness, and all-cause mortality in older men and women. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Apr 9;110(15):5797-801. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1219686110. Epub 2013 Mar 25. PMID: 23530191; PMCID: PMC3625264.
Find more statistics at Statista