Social isolation, defined as “a state of complete or near-complete lack of contact between an individual and society,“ has been shown to be related to several serious health issues. In fact, social isolation is related to early death at a similar level as smoking or obesity. Click here for a quick read about social isolation.
An interesting and sad statistic from this article is that the percentage of American adults who report loneliness has increased from 20 percent in the 80s to 40 percent now. In addition, social isolation as a child leads to poorer health outcomes as an adult – the effects are long-lasting and persist even when other factors such as education level or income are considered.
Several thinkers and philosophers over time have recognized the importance of social connectedness. Here are some quotes:
“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
“We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone…and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of the individual threads from one to another that creates something.” Sandra Day O’Connor
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” John Muir
As you may know from recent coverage in local media, our community has started a process of reconnecting. The topic of social connectedness, or the lack thereof, has surfaced across sectors and people are coming together to strategize on actions we can take to reconnect. However, not everyone has the time or desires to be a part of this process. If that is you, there are several things you can do to catalyze reconnection in your own life! Here are a few suggestions:
- Meet your neighbors. Share something with them – garden abundance, fresh flowers, baked goods. It might feel strange to reach out to someone you have lived close to for a while but not yet met, but most likely, your neighbors have been wanting to meet you as well and will welcome contact (or some of your garden produce!). And if they don’t, well, there are probably more neighbors to meet that will! Click here for some reading material in case you need bolstering.
- We all have something to offer. I had a 94-year-old patient who volunteered as a kindergarten reading tutor and a hospice death vigil volunteer. He was one of the kindest, most alive people I knew and I believe that was a result of his connectedness. There’s no shortage of volunteer opportunities.
- Take “the other” to lunch. It seems that a lot of our isolation comes from our tendency to group each other into “us” and “them.” There’s a movement now called “Take the Other to Lunch.” The premise is that connecting on a personal level with people who we view as different from us will increase our connectedness. Click here for a TedTalk was given by the originator of this idea. Who the “other” is to you is clearly something you have to determine, but the idea is a great one, and may just start a friendship and connection that you would never have predicted!