Friday, May 4, 2018

Tips to Prevent Loneliness

According to Statistics Canada, as many as 1.4 million elderly Canadians report feeling lonely. And the city, Vancouver, I live in as a reputation for being less than friendly if you believe the media stories. So is loneliness a problem for seniors in Vancouver. I think it is, based on conversations at the many workshops I have given on social connectedness.

The discrepancy between an individual’s loneliness and the number of connections in a social network is well documented, yet little is known about the placement of loneliness within, or the spread of loneliness through, social networks. Results of a number of studies indicated the spread of loneliness was found to be stronger than the spread of perceived social connections, stronger for friends than family members, and stronger for women than for men.

The results advance our understanding of the broad social forces that drive loneliness and suggest that efforts to reduce loneliness in our society may benefit by aggressively targeting the people in the periphery to help repair their social networks and to create a protective barrier against loneliness that can keep the whole network from unraveling. 

There was a study that involved more than 5,000 individuals who were asked to complete a loneliness questionnaire, give a medical history and receive a physical examination every two year to four years over a ten-year period. Participants also indicated who their friends and relatives were, and many of these individuals also took part in the study. By looking at the social networks of the participants and the number of lonely days they experienced each year, researchers were able to see how loneliness spread throughout the groups. The study found that:

·       People feel lonely for approximately 48 days out of each year, on average.
·       People are about 50-percent more likely to experience loneliness if someone they are directly connected to feels lonely.
·       Women report experiencing more loneliness
·       Loneliness is more likely to spread in women's social networks than in men's.
·       Loneliness is more likely to spread in networks of friends, rather than those of family.
Loneliness can be overcome. It does require a conscious effort on your part to make a change. Making a change, in the long run, can make you happier, healthier, and enable you to impact others around you in a positive way.
Here are some ways to prevent loneliness:
·       Recognize that loneliness is a sign that something needs to change.
·       Understand the effects that loneliness has on your life, both physically and mentally.
·       Consider doing community service or another activity that you enjoy. These situations present great opportunities to meet people and cultivate new friendships and social interactions.
·       Focus on developing quality relationships with people who share similar attitudes, interests, and values with you.
·       Expect the best. Lonely people often expect rejection, so instead focus on positive thoughts and attitudes in your social relationships.
Having just three or four close friends is enough to ward off loneliness and reduce the negative health consequences associated with this state of mind.

The problem is that as we age we lose friends for many reasons, and many of us find it hard to make new friends. So tomorrow I will post a few tips on how to make new friends.

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