Did you know that loneliness can cause physical, mental and emotional health problems? When we think about the causes of health problems, not too many of us would ever think that lack of connection with people could be the culprit. We live in an age of technology that allows us to be connected to thousands of people at any moment of the day, but we are more disconnected from people than ever before. In 1980, 20 percent of Americans reported feeling lonely and today that percentage is more than double (Brown, 2017).
When I think about seasons of my life when I experienced a significant struggle, loneliness was often at the center of that struggle. After my daughter was born, I silently struggled with postpartum depression. My days were spent at home, caring for an infant, with little interaction outside of my home. When I lived in Northern Virginia, I couldn’t seem to make deep connections with people. Most of the people my age were still single, yet I was married with two elementary-aged children. Those who had elementary-aged kids were nearly two decades older than me and they didn’t reciprocate my invites for coffee and get-togethers. I constantly cried and thought about running away, while confused about what was causing my sorrow. Then I became lead pastor of a church and was met with a new form of loneliness. I couldn’t technically be friends with parishioners and people in the community weren’t too comfortable being friends with a religious leader. This new role did not leave me with too many people to turn to, who could understand what I was feeling.
My ability to connect with people who get me has changed my life. As a therapist and pastor, I have surrounded myself with people in my field, who understand what it is like to live out those two roles. I am naturally an introvert but having alone time is very different than experiencing loneliness. I have made it a priority to grab a cup of coffee or tea with a friend, plan a girls’ trip every once in a while, and regularly chat with long-distance friends on apps that allow me to have a face to face connection.
We are created to be connected with one another and not in a superficial, social media connection. Loneliness leads to lethargy, while connection leads to contentment. Have you been feeling fatigue with no medical explanation for it? Loneliness could be at the root of your ability to feel emotionally, mentally, or physically healthy. If this is you, make a commitment to yourself to do whatever it takes to find someone to connect to. There are many creative ways to make this happen but many of us need a little inspiration sometimes. You aren’t alone in this struggle! Send me a message if you need some help to come up with a plan, or talk with a relative or acquaintance who does this well. You are worth it!
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV)
Brown, B. (2017). Braving the wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone. New York: Random House.