Illustrated by Brianna Gilmartin, Verywell

     It always fascinates me how in 2020, we can be so digitally connected and yet feel so alone.  Loneliness can be a part of midlife for many reasons, divorce, death of a spouse, or an empty nest.  A Psychology Today article contends that loneliness does not depend on your social circle; more than 60% of married people admitted to feeling lonely. In the United States,40% of midlife folks are affected by loneliness, and this could lead to some devastating health outcomes.

     But before we get started, let’s define the difference between loneliness and isolation since many of us use these terms interchangeably.  Isolation ensues when we have very little or no contact with other people, this can happen due to a mental health issue or as a health precaution to fight the spread of COVID-19 which is what many of us are experiencing now.   Loneliness, on the other hand, is an emotional state it can be caused by isolation but can also be due to other things such as the loss of a good friend or moving to a new city.

Health risks associated with loneliness can include higher stress levels, antisocial behavior, increased alcohol or drug consumption, and depression. Studies show that lonely adults are less likely to exercise and consume diets high in fat and calories.

Image: tonyrobbins.com

If you feel lonely, you are not alone. In 2010 AARP commissioned a study that classified loneliness by age; the results were astounding.  Using the UCLA Loneliness Scale, they measured the percent of lonely adults by age group:

  • Ages 40-49 – 43%
  • Ages 50-59 – 41%
  • Ages 60-69 – 32%
  • Ages 70+ – 25%

How can you protect yourself from the devastating effects of loneliness?

  • Nurture existing relationships: this step helped me to combat my loneliness, I make a point each day to contact a family member or friend.  And since we are practicing social distancing due to the virus, I reach out to work colleagues a couple of times each week to stay connected. 
  • Find a hobby: this one was a little bit harder because the things I enjoy don’t necessarily require company, but it has been a real joy cycling with my friend and organizing family walks.   You could start a bowling league or book club and invite family and friends.  Or, do something entirely out of your comfort zone like ballroom dancing and make some new friends.
  • Volunteer:  One of the best ways to get your mind off yourself is to give back to your community.  Find a place to donate your time and gift that organization with your gifts and talents.  Time spent volunteering will put you into social situations that will help you to meet new people in a safe environment.

If your loneliness persists or turns into isolation, don’t be afraid to seek help, many organizations such as Better Help offer online therapeutic services.  As with any service, do your due diligence and research before you commit.  Also, check out the Coalition to End Isolation and Loneliness; this is a non-profit organization that works to assist individuals with local and national resources to end loneliness.   

     It is a myth that the older you get, the lonelier you will become, yes, your life will change, kids grow up and move out, you might get divorced, or your spouse might pass away, maybe your friend of 25 years will move to another state.  I have found that one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to be flexible and to live your life with a curious mind.

With Love and Peace,

Renee

Need some help getting your groove back, download The Ultimate Midlife GuideBeating The Midlife Slump-10 Strategies To Help You Boost Your Self-Confidence, Self-Love, and Self-Care

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