Last updated 9/9/2016 at 4:47pm
These two individuals point out that loneliness is a painful issue and one faced by many people today. Loneliness strikes the young and the old; males and females; the employed and unemployed; the married and the single. Loneliness is no respecter of person, gender, age, or position in life. In fact, there has been a sharp increase in loneliness over the last decades according to John Cacioppo, the director of the University of Chicago's Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience and author of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection. "The percentage of Americans who responded that they regularly or frequently felt lonely was between 11% and 20% in the 1970s and 1980s. In 2010, the American Association of Retired Persons(AARP) did a nationally representative study in 2010 and found it was closer to 40% to 45%. And a recent study done on older adults out of University of California-San Francisco put it at 43%" he notes.
In spite of the fact that loneliness is rising, there is this good news: loneliness can be shaped, managed and even overcome. Here are eight ways to combat and defeat loneliness.
1) Remind yourself you are not alone in feeling lonely. Loneliness is a condition which almost everyone experiences at one time or another. Remind yourself that you are not alone in feeling lonely; that loneliness is a part of being human. Even those who wrote the bible experienced bouts of loneliness. Many Psalms are cries of loneliness. Consider these:
"My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away" (Psalm 38:11 New International Version).
"Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors; I am a dread to my friends. Those who see me on the street flee from me" (Psalm 31:11).
Job felt the sting of loneliness: "All my intimate friends detest me; those I love have turned against me" (Job 19:19). So did the apostle Paul: "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me"(Second Timothy 4:16).
2) Have an honest look at yourself.If your circle of meaningful friendships has shrunk over the past months, take an emotional inventory of yourself. Ask yourself if you have become too:
Self-absorbed-overbearing, boring, uninterested in others, their lives and activities.
Unbalanced-a loner, workaholic or a socially challenged individual.
Lazy-depending on others to do all the initiating, reaching out, inviting.
Critical, judgmental and angry-these are all hostile emotions which drive people away.
Narrow minded-closed to other points of view; overly comfortable that your perception is always correct.
If these are problems in your life, be aware of them and begin working away to minimize and eliminate those negatives. If necessary, see a counselor or therapist for guidance. By doing some work on your inner life, you will strengthen your social portfolio.
3) Get online. That advice comes from Silver Spring, Maryland resident, Floyce Larson who says: "When my husband of 50 years died, I was lost. I was a lonely widow wondering what I would do with the rest of my life." Her son suggested she seek connections via a computer and being online. He patiently taught Larson how to utilize online resources. "Being online opened a whole new world for me. I communicate via e-mail with distant relatives, old college friends. I chat with Senior Net members and make friends across the country. I resumed freelance writing, and have also published online," Larson explains.
4) Help someone who needs support. "The capacity to care is the thing that gives life its greatest significance, wrote musician Pablo Casals. Those who volunteer their time live longer and happier lives. Acting on the compassion and kindness which is latent in every heart, brings fulfillment, joy, and purpose as well as validating our self-worth along with that of others. And, by responding to the needs of others, you will allow love into your own life. Ches Hudel was 31 when her husband and nine-year-old son died in an automobile accident 40 years earlier. She was left to raise three daughters, the youngest was just over a year old. Today, in her 70s, she has looked back at her journey through grief. She says that reaching out to others was therapeutic and cut down her own loneliness.
Ms. Hudel began volunteering at a children's medical center working with kids who had cystic fibrosis. She also began teaching swimming to special-needs children and adults, which she continues to do today at the YWCA. Her students have such disabling conditions as Down syndrome, spina bifida and cerebral palsy. "You soon realize you can't indulge yourself by wishing for something that's not going to be. When you start reaching out from your world, there's so much you can do with yourself to meet people on the same journey, to help them meet their challenges."
5) Increase your level of caring. An important key for warding off loneliness is care. Be a person who cares for others, for animals, for the environment, for life and everyone and everything around you. "When you maintain a pattern of caring, whether for a house, a garden, pets, or other people, you are protecting yourself against despair," says Dr. Aaron Katcher, MD, coauthor of Between Pets and People.
6) Turn to our Creator. God is a specialist when loneliness and anguish are deep. When it seems that no one understands or cares about you, remind yourself that God knows you, loves you, cares about you and is present in your loneliness. Turn to God in prayer asking God to help you find joy even when things feel bleak. Let your thoughts and feelings be re-directed by reviewing these scriptures which affirm God's faithful love and constant presence: First Peter 5:7-God cares about you and your feelings.Matthew 11:28-29-An invitation to find comfort in Christ. Isaiah 43:1-4-A powerful reminder that in hard times, God is present. Lamentations3:22-26-God's love sustains us. Joshua 1:9-God is always with you.
7) Engage in more 'face to face' time with people. Dr. Cacioppo notes that one reason why loneliness has increased is that "we aren't as closely bound. We no longer live in the same village for generations, which means we don't have the same generational connections. That releases social constraints-relationships are formed and replaced more easily today." He recommends adding "face to face" time with people along with social networking: "We have Tinder, Match, eHarmony and all these kinds of places you can dial up and find friendships, connections and opportunities that didn't exist. In the last 15 years or so, many of those face-to-face connections have been replaced with social networking. We've found that if you use social networking as a way to promote face-to-face conversation, it lowers loneliness. But if you use a destination, as a replacement for the face-to-face, it increases loneliness."
8) Remind yourself, "It's worth the effort." While strengthening your social portfolio does take some work and energy, the payoff is a richer, fuller, happier life. Lotte Prager owes her life, and much of the happiness she has enjoyed during her 81 years, to friends. It was friends who helped her escape Nazi Germany in 1937 by paying her first year's tuition at a British college. Then friends at the college helped her get her relatives out of Germany. Following her move to the United States, Prager met her husband-to-be at a party given by other friends. After her husband died and her children had grown up, yet another friend helped her find an apartment in New York City. Retired from her career as a social worker, Prager now relies on friends for companionship. Prager says she is comforted in the knowledge that "they will do for me and I will do for them."