Have you ever been surrounded by so many people but you felt lonely inside? Almost all of us feel lonely at some point in our lives and while we define loneliness in relation to social isolation, being lonely has nothing to do with the amount of time we spend with other people versus being alone.
When Do We Feel Lonely?
So what is that unpleasant feeling that we are all so vulnerable to? We are lonely when we have no meaningful connection with others or when we lack a sense of belonging to the place or the crowd we are around. Of course, there are usually triggers to loneliness like a recent gloomy incident or anxiety about TIME (aka the past or the future). Yet, loneliness isn’t just unpleasant, research has proven that it can seriously impair health and has an impact on a person’s life expectancy.
Why Do We Not Feel a Meaningful Connection to Those We Meet?
We meet many people daily, however, a lot of the time we don’t feel any ‘connection’ to them. Why is that? Because to feel connected you need to be seen, heard, understood and valued; as a result, a certain energy is created that enables you to be present in the moment, open and empathetic.
We aren’t expected to feel connected to everyone we meet, but whether it’s a group of people working together, a family dinner, a spiritual gathering or a punch of genuine friends, we need to take good advantage of those connections, as they are essential for our mental and physical health. Not only that, but societies that make ‘connections’ a habit or even a ritual tend to live happier and longer, they simply realize the importance of repeated actions with intention, and how this shapes the priorities and the overall system of an individual.
In some areas in Japan, they have what they call ‘Moai’, which are groups of friends that start in childhood and extend into older age. It’s basically a social support network where friends meet for a common purpose. Sometimes they meet daily or a couple of days a week to talk, eat together, share advice and they even offer one another financial assistance when needed. But these networks aren’t about gossip and chatter — they have deep support and respect for each other. Each member knows that in time of need, a friend will step in and help. It’s an unspoken oath that they share.
What Can We do to Cultivate Meaningful Connections?
Nowadays, most of us are becoming social media addicts where we spend more time online and less time on meaningful personal connections. So it’s now more than ever that we need to make personal connections a habit, that we religiously practice in good times as well as in stormy ones. Whether it’s the weekly girls’ night out or that family Friday lunch – we need to
- Show up
- Be present
- Be open-hearted
Because trust me those face-to-face interactions are one of the strongest predictors of how joyful we are and how long we’ll continue to live.