"I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” Hank Williams
“Lonely Avenue” Ray Charles
“Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel)” Roy Orbison
“Are You Lonesome Tonight” Elvis Presley
“All by Myself” Eric Carmen
Those are some of my favorite of the countless songs about loneliness. Lonely heartbreak songs have always been popular, maybe because it is something everyone can relate to. Haven’t we all felt so lonely we could cry? But the rise of loneliness in our society (outlined in Robert Butnam’s book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community) is an epidemic and can cause serious health problems.
Loneliness is not measured by social isolation, but by the subjective feeling of disconnection or rejection. It can be the feeling of being in a group of friends or colleagues and feeling utterly alone. Loneliness is (according to Julianne Hold-Lunstand, a professor at Brigham Young University) is a bigger risk factor than obesity and the equivalent of smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. Lonely people are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, GI problems and it increases the risk of Alzheimer’s.
How can we fight loneliness? Psychology Today recently had some great ideas which I will summarize as takeaways…
- Don’t listen to your parents and talk to strangers! It actually does make you feel better. As a recovering New Yorker, this is something that took a little time to get used to but I am glad I did.
- Schedule face-to-face contact with friends or family - when that is not possible schedule FaceTime.
- Spend less time on social media, it usually makes people feel worse. We know all the happy vacation selfies are not the full picture (pun intended).
- Get to know your neighbors and the people in your community.
- Break Bread. Eating together eases isolation.
- Talk about the loneliness. So many people feel the same way, if you break the silence, odds are you will find someone who feels exactly the same way.