In today’s world, we are more connected than ever, and with the push of a few buttons you can talk to a loved one on the other side of the world in an instant.
Despite the ease at which we can call or message the ones we love, we have never been more disconnected with one another as we are now.
The recent lockdowns due to coronavirus have highlighted just how important human connection is, and seeing our family and friends was one of the things we missed the most.
Unfortunately for others, the coronavirus lockdown made them feel more alone than ever.
Loneliness levels are at an all time high and a staggering one in four Australians reported feeling lonely at least once a week.
The health affects of loneliness are severe and include depression and anxiety, as well as high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, weakened immunity and weight gain.
Loneliness does not discriminate and is felt by people of all ages, genders and demographics. It is felt by those who have lost a partner, single parents, carers, the elderly and those living with a disability.
Humans need social interaction to function: it’s hardwired into our brains to seek out company, as we once needed this connection with others in order to share resources and survive.
Even though we are living in a modern world, this hardwired need hasn’t gone away, and we begin to suffer when our social needs aren’t being met.
So how can we help those who may be feeling lonely?
Here are four simple ways to reach out.
1: Get to know your neighbours.
How many of us can truly say we know our neighbours?
Having a good relationship with the people who live close to you is important in many ways, and these friendships can often last long after you move away.
Some of the people on your street may be experiencing loneliness. Consider those who may be widowed, single parents, the disabled, carers and those living with chronic illnesses.
A simple knock on the door, followed by introducing yourself (and maybe even bringing along a batch of freshly baked treats) is enough to break the ice and start a friendship that could last a lifetime.
Your neighbours will feel less lonely knowing that there is someone just across the street to turn to if they need it, and you can rest easy knowing you can turn to them too.
There are so many different volunteering opportunities you can get involved in that can help ease the loneliness of others.
Some aged care homes invite volunteers to drop in on a regular basis and simply sit and chat with the residents, some of whom have lived incredible lives and have some interesting stories to tell!
For some people, this might be the only social interaction they will have outside of nursing staff and other residents, making this interaction more important than ever for their social, and in turn, overall well-being.
If you’ve got a couple spare hours and a good ear for listening, this might be the volunteer work for you!
3: Phone a friend.
Can you think of a loved one you haven’t spoken to in a while?
A simple phone call to check in and see how they’re doing is a wonderful and simple way to communicate with those loved ones you suspect may be feeling a bit lonely.
Today, technology surpasses all distance, meaning you can call or video chat with anyone anywhere in the world, making this an excellent way to keep in touch with those who live far away.
A phone call is also a great way to connect and catch up with those with limited mobility.
4: Organise regular catch ups.
Whether it’s once a week or once a month, organising a regular catch up with someone can make a world of difference.
Whether you can only spare a couple of hours a week or a whole day, a regular catch up can make a world of difference to both parties, as well as strengthen friendship bonds.
There is new research to suggest that regular social activity can reduce cognitive decline in elderly people, making these catch ups good for you brain too!
As you can see, there are many different ways to help the people around us feel less lonely, and it all starts with reaching out.
By working on building meaningful connections with those around us, we can ensure the happiness and well-being of all parties.
No one should have to go through life alone, and we have the power to make sure they don’t.
Now go and make that call.