In today's world, there are so many ways in which you can connect with the world around you. With just a touch of a button, people send text messages to old childhood friends who used to live down the street from them or call their siblings who lives halfway across the globe. A lot of this can be attributed to the technological advancements that came in full force this century. Because of this interconnectivity, it would make sense for people to feel more connected with the world. It seems, however, that this is not really the case.
The truth is, a lot of people feel lonely. Loneliness is basically a worldwide phenomenon. In a 2016 survey by the Harris Poll, it was shown that 72 percent of respondents felt lonely in their lives. Of the more than 2,000 Americans surveyed, many of them further revealed that they experienced loneliness at least once a week (1). So, people aren't alone in feeling lonely.
When you feel lonely, it is easy to fall into the lonely mindset trap. You start making more negative assumptions about the people around you, such as the idea that people are purposely ignoring you. For some people, they even begin thinking that maybe the problem is themselves - that they are boring and push people away. Among young adults, those who feel lonely have a higher probability of having mental health issues. In addition, this same cohort tends to have more issues dealing with stress (1).
All of this is to say that people crave connection. That's why having a bad social network can have negative effects on a person. For people with low quantity or quality social ties, there is a higher likelihood of them having inflammation in the body and a weakened immune system (2). However, being by yourself doesn't have to be a bad thing. There are times where you just need to be alone and relax. It's important to understand when solitude is necessary.
There are some simple things you can do to focus on connection. One of the first (and most important) steps you can take is to understand and connect with yourself. You need to understand your own thoughts to some degree, figure out your purpose, and anticipate your reactions. To do this, you ask yourself questions and analyze your responses. You can also try recording your emotions or reactions in different situations. In addition, one of my favorite things to do is express my gratitude. At the end of each day, I talk with my sister about how the day went, and we tell each other three things during the day that made us happy, thankful, or excited. By focusing on the things you do, you give yourself a sense of control and extra positivity.
Moving outwards, you can learn to better connect with the things or people around you. Be generous in the ways that you interact, whether it’s saying “Hi” to the people who pass you on the street or just smiling whenever you make eye contact. People just want to be acknowledged. In addition, when you are having a conversation with somebody, it is a good idea to put away your phone. If you put away your phone and give the other person your full attention, you’ll find that the conversation may go a lot smoother.
Pay attention to how people are saying things as well. Their body language and tone of voice can reveal a lot about what they are thinking. Also, ask questions. You can take initiative and try asking people to hang out. That way, you can stop guessing what others think and stop anticipating the worst (3). You can just connect.
1. Stinson, Annakeara. “6 Little Things That Make You Feel Less Lonely & More Connected, According to a Counselor.” Elite Daily, 26 April 2018. https://www.elitedaily.com/p/6-little-things-that-make-you-feel-less-lonely-more-connected-according-to-a-counselor-8895954
2. Umberson, D., & Montez, J. K. (2010). Social relationships and health: a flashpoint for health policy. Journal of health and social behavior, 51 Suppl(Suppl), S54–S66. doi:10.1177/0022146510383501
3. Harbinger, AJ. “How to Listen and Build Deeper Connections with People.” The Art of Charm, n.d. https://theartofcharm.com/networking/how-to-listen-and-build-deeper-connections-with-people/
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