I remember the isolation of winters in Chicago. I can’t imagine what it is like this year after months of summer-time isolation. Even though I am in a location where I can still walk safely and warmly outside, with the holidays upon us I am beginning to feel the pangs of loneliness and isolation. As my old crutches for sadness – alcohol and comfort foods – are not an option anymore and I can only play so much Candy Crush, it has become apparent that I need to find better, longer-lasting, and healthier means of curing loneliness.
Rachel Wurzman shared her interesting findings about how our ability to connect socially and compulsive spectrum disorders are located in the same part of our brain, the striatum. This is why when we feel disconnected from others, we reach for compulsive addiction behaviors whether they appear as excessive Amazon ordering, Netflix binging, or drug use. Much of the time, we are not even aware that we are trying to feed our loneliness with a candy bar, but somewhere deep in our brain we are trying to sooth our inner child with a quick fix. There is a better way.
The first step is to increase our awareness. Are you obsessed with shopping, cigarettes, chocolate, Facebook, Fortnite, or YouTube? Are you constantly feeding your mind or your body, but you still feel off? Much of our lives are lived on autopilot. We feel poorly and we unconsciously reach for something we think will make us feel better – which usually only makes us feel better for a moment, if at all. Instead, slow down, use meditation and mindfulness to come back to the present, and think before you act.
The Real Thing
Take the time to uncover what you really want and need. The addictions in our lives are bandages for our pain, not medicine. Take the time to uncover what it is that you really want and need. Where is your pain and what is the real long-lasting solution? Focus on identifying and securing a real solution not an unhealthy substitute. In your awareness, make new and better choices.
As I have written about before and have been reminded of lately, the best way we can get what we need, is to give what we need. If we want to feel connected, we need to seek connection. Isolation does not cure loneliness, reaching out does. Connection and being of service are the best ways to feel part of a community again.
Remember to make real connections. Social media is a platform more to compare than share. Make real connections with real people. Zoom and telephone are wonderful means. Make use of every interaction you have. As you go about your day, make eye contact with the cashier, ask your co-worker how they are, wave hello to your neighbor. If you are aware, there are multiple times throughout the day to make a connection.
Make a Commitment
Goethe said, “Knowing is not enough. We must apply.” I am sure nothing I wrote here is a new thought for you. You know what will help. It is not the knowing but the acting where we struggle. Before you move on to the next article, make a written commitment to reach out to others. Personally, I have standing appointments with my close friends and a list of those I can call when I have time or need. Take action to reach out. In your effort, you will heal more than just yourself.