According to a CIGNA Survey conducted in 2018, 46% of Americans feel lonely sometimes or always. Only around half of Americans (53 percent) have meaningful, in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis. Gen Z's are among the most lonely. Although the 18-23-year-olds think they are super-connected, they are not. They're attached to the wireless "umbilical cords" connected to smart phones which—in the scheme of things—are not very smart. Communication that is purely digital can never replace the sound of a voice or the touch of a hand. Or—for that matter—the tone of a voice. Chronic use of social media increases loneliness.
Here’s the kicker: loneliness has been determined to be more dangerous to your health than if you smoked 15 cigarettes a day! According to Vivek Murthy, former US Surgeon General, this loneliness epidemic poses significant risk for our nation’s well-being. A Brigham Young University study showed that loneliness can weaken your immune system, increase inflammation, and fuel heart disease and stroke.
Doesn’t sound resilient to me.
One solution: meaningful human connection through listening. When connected with someone who lovingly and respectfully listens with her heart, life become lighter, even healthier. It’s such a simple but powerful tool that psychologist Tracy Ruble began setting up chairs on a sidewalk in San Francisco. Trained volunteers sat and just listened to any passerby who just wanted to stop and talk. From humble beginnings in 2015, Sidewalk Talk has grown to over 400 volunteers in 50 cities and in 12 countries.
According to Ruble, “We aim to teach people how to be effective listeners and compassionate community members so we can all show up and support one another. We teach people how to be listeners and empower them to start Sidewalk Talk chapters in their own cities.”
SO, dear readers, put away your not-so-smart phones. Walk into your home, office, or neighborhood and just try listening to one person without judgment or advise. I’m in the field of communication and I know I can always become a better listener. Time to impact the loneliness epidemic!
Having a solid social network of real friends is an antidote, even the Magic Elixir for good physical and mental health. Being social can prevent us from being lonely which stresses our immune system.