No, this is not a blog on five steps to Ashley Madison-ing. But if you're feeling lonely, isolated, or disconnected, please read on. Whether coupled or not, we all occasionally (some of us more often than others!) experience these feelings. I have found that so many of my clients express feeling disconnected and isolated and, while there are infinite reasons for these feelings, here are three big ones:
- While it is so easy for us to ‘connect’, the true feelings of communion and bonding with friends and partners is often harder to come by the more attached we are to our devices.
- Life Changes. If you’re in transition- leaving one business for another, making a big career or relationship move, embarking on a new business or hobby, you may find your circle needs to shift or widen a little. It can be very helpful to find new people who will understand and support your journey.
- Urban Isolation: Is it possible that those of us in the heart of big cities are even more isolated?
Here are some thoughts on connecting with ‘The One’ this Valentine’s day:
Challenge yourself to connect with others
The only person you can change is you. As frustrated as you may be feeling that you are the one making the effort, know that others are feeling isolated and disconnected too. Challenge yourself to meet new people. Are you at a transition point? I’ve often found that clients who are moving in to a new phase of life and a new identity find that it’s beneficial to make new connections who can offer the support and validation this new leg of the journey requires. Use Yelp, Meetup, theChamber of Commerce or other sources to find a networking group, luncheon, or other event where you might find solidarity. Ask others their story first, and you may be surprised how uplifted and connected you feel at the end of the day.
Put Your Device Away
The good news? Humans are resilient. Even very small changes done consistently over time can make a huge impact.
-Shawn Achor, the Harvard Happiness Expert challenges his audiences to write one thank you note- (yes, you can use email or social media if you’d like) every day and see how quickly your own feelings of connection, gratitude, and happiness change.
- Eat one meal a day consciously with no devices. Really. It’s great for your body’s health (we tend not to notice what or how much we’re eating when in front of screens) and great for building connection with yourself and others. It's not just important, it's vital.
- Set aside one hour each evening (to start) as screen-free connection time with your spouse and/or children- unless you actually need to be on call 24-7 (be honest with yourself), turn it all the way off.
Spend Time With the Awesome Partner Always With You: YOU
Sherry Turkle writes for the NY Times, “One start toward reclaiming conversation is to reclaim solitude. Some of the most crucial conversations you will ever have will be with yourself. Slow down sufficiently to make this possible. And make a practice of doing one thing at a time. Think of unitasking as the next big thing."
Connect With The Ultimate Partner
Whether you believe in a higher power, or have some sense of your best/highest self, meditation and prayer have been proven to scientifically increase our own well-being.
“Dr. Andrew Newberg, director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at theUniversity of Pennsylvania conducted a study of Tibetan Buddhists in meditation and Franciscan nuns in prayer which showed comparable decreased activity in the parts of the brain that are associated with sense of self and spatial orientation in both groups.”- Richard Shiffman, Huffington Post.
Buddhist Loving Kindness meditation can be a good way to start- the focus is not on any kind of a higher power, but on practicing loving kindness in five stages: to ourselves, a loved one, a person to who we feel neutral, a person we feel is “difficult” and finally, to all beings. Here is a great introduction.
Take it Seriously
Jessica Olien writes in Slate, “Social isolation impairs immune function and boosts inflammation, which can lead to arthritis, type II diabetes, and heart disease. Loneliness is breaking our hearts, but as a culture we rarely talk about it.”
I can tell you this. If you’re feeling lonely, you are NOT ALONE. Reach out personally and professionally- in addition to calling on a support network of peers, partners, colleagues, and friends, a counselor, who can offer a safe and trusted space for talk and empathy, or a coach, who can assist in developing a concrete plan of steps towards greater support and connection- can be invaluable in this process.
Here it is, in a nutshell: (Why a nutshell? How about a chocolate wrapper? Or a fortune cookie?)
- put aside your device for a concrete amount of time each day
- practice meditation and gratitude
- reach out to people- trusted and new, friends and professionals, for support
Here’s to a month of warmth and connection- to ourselves, to others, and to all.
Dawn Camacho is a motivational speaker, and the co-founder of Whole Life Solutions, offering emotional and practical support for creating clarity and order inside and out. Want a simple way to offer and receive solidarity from other professionals? Join us for our monthly breakfast club- it's free!