I’m delighted to say that I’ve kept to my intention of reading each day. I’ve switched though from reading at night, when I tend to fall asleep easily after a long day, to early in the morning when I’m fresh, awake, and ready to soak in some new information. Because I’ve been talking so much about the effects of social isolation and loneliness, I decided to read Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, by US Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD. Any of you want to read it along with me and discuss it? If so, please send me an email and we’ll figure out the logistics.
A few things from the first chapter struck me that I’ll briefly share with you. There are three “dimensions” of loneliness:
Intimate or emotional: longing for a close confidante or intimate partner
Relational or social: yearning for quality friendships, social companionship, and support
Collective: hunger for a community of people who share your sense of purpose and interest
Isolation is different than loneliness. That is, “isolation is considered a risk factor for loneliness simply because you’re more likely to feel lonely if you rarely interact with others.” And yet, the introverts among us will also be quick to point out that solitude is needed by many and is distinct from isolation.
But what really struck me in the opening of this book, especially since I’ve used this column to encourage people to join us for an activity, is the following: “What prevents [those that are lonely] from simply joining a club, making new friends, or connecting with family and old friends?” Well, the answer is both surprising and then not at all surprising once you think about it. “When we already feel lonely and then see others having fun together, enjoying the company of those around them, there’s a natural tendency to withdraw instead of approaching a group.”
So, this week, I’m encouraging you to reflect on what would be helpful for you, if you too feel lonely? Would it be a visit with a volunteer and their dog? A walk with just one other person on a sunny day? A routine call from the same person just to check in? (If any of these sound good, please call the office at 202-615-5853 or email info@CWPV.org and we’ll make arrangements.) Or would you like to attend an event, such as the upcoming Tuesday Talk at the library, where lots of people attend, but there’s no pressure to interact? Or are you comfortable, going to a social outing, such as next week’s Lunch Bunch? Whatever works best for you is what’s best.
Together, let’s make 2024 a memorable year.