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Overcome Loneliness and Build Thriving Relationships

The Brutal Impact of Loneliness

Let's face it research shows that Loneliness is worse for us than smoking or obesity. Loneliness has been associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide. Loneliness among heart failure patients is associated with almost 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalisation, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits. More people die early deaths due to loneliness than anything else.

This blog is about sharing with you validated strategies I use in my coaching to overcome loneliness and to build loving, mutually beneficial relationships.

Covid-19 government forced social distancing, curfews and restrictions has led people to spend more time in isolation or with the same group of people than ever before. The implications for some people has been harsh, including alcohol and drug abuse, anxiety and depression and in some cases domestic abuse and suicide.  On the flip side there are also people who are making the most out of the extra family time. Now more than ever we need to boost our positive energy and outlook on life, stay virtuous and change habits to ones that have a positive impact on us, like chanting, meditation and lifting weights, taking walks and cooking. I for instance have taken this time in lockdown to to soak in the sun and make some upgrades to the garden, which brings with it a great deal of satisfaction. 

Do not neglect loneliness because left unattended it can be harmful to your health, however do not give it too much attention that it consumes you, rather take stock of all your blessing and bow in prayer and give thanks. Make it a habit to give 3 people a complement each day for it teaches your mind to look for the good. Otherwise the minds will consistently search for the negatives in your life and ignore the many blessing you have. As an example, two friends of mine lost their wonderful mothers to suicide as a result of loneliness. Both women had raised successful children each, had the love of grandchildren and their community, yet each of these women did not absorb that love in a meaningful enough way to lift them. They both were consumed by a wrong that happened in their lives a very long time ago that kept them down.

What you choose to see in our mind's eye, despite what is actually real, becomes your truth. So, I ask you to choose to see joy over darkness in all circumstances. Work on your personal self-love by recognising your blessing and grow your faith in you and your God or universe. If misery accompanies you regularly or your mind finds misery easily, then you must change your mental chatter now to nurture a positive mindset. Even go as far as embracing or at the least accepting even the darkest hour as being part of a natural life cycle, that is meant to teach you and to help you grow.

Research in this space on loneliness made me quickly realise that loneliness will literally suck the life out of you. It can make you feel empty, isolated, and alone. Loneliness can be a gut-wrenching experience that comes from a discrepancy between the types of interpersonal relationships you want to have, and what you perceive yourself having at present (Peplau & Perlman, 1982). Loneliness doesn’t spare even those who are rich in social contact because the experience of loneliness seems to be more about how you perceive the quality of social interactions (Asher & Paquette, 2003Hawkley, Burleson, Berntson, & Cacioppo, 2003). Numerous studies (Hawkley & Cacioppo, 2010Heinrich & Gullone, 2006) show that loneliness is terrible for your mind, life satisfaction, and overall well-being.

If you haven’t got it yet, I want you to understand the seriousness of loneliness so you don’t overlook it and the signs in others or yourself. Did you know that loneliness is a strong contributor to premature death? Loneliness is associated with a doubled mortality risk in women and nearly doubled risk in men. Both men and women who felt lonely were three times more likely to report symptoms of anxiety and depression and had a significantly lower quality of life than those who did not feel lonely.

The more self-aware you are, the more grateful you are for your life and relationships, by doing things like generously hosting social gatherings and get-togethers, the less likely you will suffer from loneliness (Rise Warrior Rise, 2018). This is strategy number one, become central in your social circles.

Does having more friends impact your loneliness for the better?

People with more real friends are less likely to experience loneliness. Your choices in how you treat yourself and your loved ones will determine who checks in on you and who sticks by you when you need them the most. Solitude isn’t a bad thing if used right. Time in solitude can be very healthy, especially when you use it to bring calm and bliss to your mind when you refresh your spirit. I use early morning exercise, meditation, prayer. You may want to use yoga, chanting, or an early morning surf. However, loneliness and extreme isolation are unhealthy, and it is socially contagious.

Fast track your personal wellbeing, do the Flourish course.

Bob Carr, Former NSW Premier and Australian Foreign Minister once said to me: "Life is a learning experience. People ought to see their life as a trajectory of learning. The challenge of walking into a room and becoming interested in other people - it's easy when you have an approach where you feel that from each person you meet your can learn something." I found this approach to life so wonderful, because it makes us bigger, it makes us realise that the world is so much more interesting when it isn't just about us.

Loneliness is spread through a contagious process in social networks. The average person feels lonely about 48 days a year, and each extra friend decreases loneliness by two days a year. Be committed and open yourself to good friends. Loneliness is a vicious cycle, because lonely people tend to lose friends over time, contributing to greater loneliness. Loneliness plays a big part in the formation and maintenance of social relationships (Wu & Yao, 2008). Loneliness threatens the cohesiveness of a social network. A possible explanation for why lonely individuals become lonelier over time may be due to individuals disconnecting lonely people from the social network to prevent the spread of loneliness or victim mentality from within the network, similar to the way Rhesus monkeys, when isolated and then reintroduced into the colony, are driven off by the others. Lonely people perpetuate their loneliness and often people don’t want to be around them.

I find it sad that traditional foundations of community and family elders for many people just aren’t there anymore to teach and guide our young in matters of principles to live by in times of good and bad. In the current world, too many people are left feeling secluded as community living fades, globalisation proliferates and individualism grows. As such, spoils of life are no longer shared, and with it, the support and belonging to extended families, elders, or the community is lost. These burdens manifest into loneliness, anxiety, and restlessness, on which the weeds of depression and unhappiness take over. You can change this emerging pattern by staying close to your loved ones and happily serving them and absorbing their trusted counsel and love. This sense of belonging within your community is what you need to thrive in life.

Become Grateful to Build Stronger Relationships

Those who are grateful for the people in their lives, attract and keep great friends and family. They tend to be a little more generous with their time and resources. Grateful people are more likely to acknowledge a belief in the interconnectedness of life and consciousness and are committed to serving others. People who have incorporated genuine gratefulness into their lives experience stronger relationships, and so can you. The simple act of going into all situations and interactions with a sincere state of positivity immediately takes away defenses and hostility. Try it with someone who is angry. Shape your position, tone and language to that of someone who understands that person’s view really understands it, empathises with them, and listen to them, acknowledge and extend a hand of friendship, and watch as most will humble their position towards you.

You can win people over with warmth and positivity. When we accept people from a position of love even when they are not kind to us, we allow them to feel at ease, and often when they hear themselves speak, their position changes to one of warmth and care. A position of love will flip your feelings and reality from that of a victim to a player in the field of life who makes greatness from each experience. Coming with gratitude in your heart motivates prosocial behaviour because the benefactor feels socially valued when gratitude, such as a sincere smile, hug, or thanks, is expressed, and this motivates them to behave pro-socially again in the future.

People who view life as a gift and consciously and intentionally acquire an attitude of gratitude and blessedness will strengthen relationships and communities. Without the sense of being grateful, life can be lonely, depressing, and impoverished. Those with all the material securities of the world, yet who remain ungrateful, inevitably end up with feelings of loneliness and emptiness. Gratitude enriches human life. It elevates, energises, inspires, and transforms. People are moved, opened, and humbled through expressions of gratitude.

Gratitude is a chosen attitude. We must be willing to recognise and acknowledge that we are blessed in what we are getting in life. When one feels they are blessed; they are then indeed blessed.

Do you want to help yourself and other feel more grateful?
Then pay attention to the following. People feel most grateful when: 

  1. Receiving a particularly valuable benefit, 
  2. High effort and cost has been expended on their behalf,
  3. The expended effort is intentional rather than accidental, and
  4. The expended effort is not due to an existing role-based relationship (e.g., certain favours may be expected in a romantic relationship). 

Expressed gratitude is a moral reinforcer (e.g., saying ‘Thank you’ motivates the benefactor to give again in the future). Giving without strings attached evokes gratitude in others, which motivates them to behave pro-socially in return (and towards others), creating a cycle of altruism. Acknowledging another’s giving also reinforces the cycle (a simple ‘Thank you’ encourages them to be generous again in the future). When you go out of our way (high effort) for others, they are especially grateful. So living in a society or community of abundance, with people looking out for one another, all starts with expressing a little gratitude to others and will ensure that your life is filled with strong and lasting relationships.

Be intentionally grateful in your life and soon you will feel your loneliness dissipate.

 

How to attract healthy and lasting relationships

Here are some practical tips in how to attract great people into your life, and essentially if you are able to put these into practice, you will eliminate the toxic people from your life:

  • Having great people in your life is no accident; you attract great people by being your most authentic Self through carrying out your life with energy, clarity and focus in accordance with your virtuous, moral principles. When you operate in this mode of honesty, you naturally are strong, fair, peaceful, and happy. Being strong, fair, peaceful, and happy is attractive, this is attractive energy.

  • Keeping great company in your life requires you to take interest in them, complementing their successes, and being generous. It also helps to be open about yourself and yet keeping a little mystery about you too; you can achieve this by practising spending time in your own company in solitude so you are not always available. A little space allows others to long for you. The mind above all needs daily nurturing to prosper.
  • Hone your verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Become a great listener, and be present. Notice other’s body language and eyes, and use great confident eye contact, but please do it without it being creepy. We have all met that person who freaks us out by uncomfortably long gazes or eyes that open way too wide. There is nothing wrong with mastering an ability to look in ponder, which shows you are paying attention and processing things.

  • Pause as you speak to allow the power of silence to reinforce what you said or again, to demonstrate you are listening and processing what they have said. Don’t just do this to make an impression, implement this strategy so you do become great at hearing and understanding what people are expressing. Re-affirm you heard what they were saying by using the same key words they have used or ask a clarifying question if you really don’t get it; honest inquiry is attractive. Refrain from taking over with your similar stories and let them speak. Should you be comfortable and have a story that may benefit them by sharing it, ask them first if they are interested in something similar that you have experienced and only then offer your story. Don’t be shy to experiment with these communication techniques with those you trust first. 

  • Think of the beautiful things in your life, the things that make you feel joy, and it will become a habit before long. Often people will be drawn to you just because you are a happy person.

  • Smile from your heart. Compliment others; this will get you to focus on life’s beauty. Call someone to say that you were thinking about him or her and just wanted to say ‘hi’. Leave them a message without expecting them to do the same. Not everyone has the confidence or generosity to make someone’s day with a just a simple ‘hello’ or a smile. Be that person and watch your life bring out the best in those around you.

  • Commit names to memory; it makes a person feel more special when someone they met previously remembers their name. If you have found it difficult to remember names in the past, here is a strategy that will help. Pay full attention to the person as they introduce themselves and immediately repeat their name in confirmation that you heard it correctly. Affiliate their name and face to someone with the same name or close to it. It always helps to remember something important about them too. Soon you will develop an ability to recall names and faces decades later, even interesting facts about their lives. It’s a wonderful strength to have. 

  • Be clear on who you admire and for what reason; this alone accelerates your self-development. Buddha said to keep in mind that ‘what you think you become, what you feel you attract, and what you imagine you create.’ To make things a lot easier in life, surround yourself with those who promote the behaviours and habits you aspire to escalate you. People with clarity of mind, goodness in their thoughts, speech and acts are ideal to have close to you, particularly ones who are emotionally stable, honest, don’t anger easily and are not lustful for things.

  • Remember that an individual’s social group can influence personality development by defining the norms of a social group and increasing similarity among group members, whether this is through positive or negative traits. Sometimes it is worth asking the question ‘Do the people you spend time with inspire you in some way and bring out the best in you?’

  • And one of the best things you can do is: Get amazing at enjoying your own company too; the more you respect and love your Self, the more others will love and respect you.

Sun Tzu, one of ancient China’s greatest strategists in the Art of War, has influenced generals and leaders all over the world with his position that ‘The supreme Art of War is to subdue the enemy without fighting’. This is one of my most treasured takeaways from his teachings, in that the best way to win a war is by not letting it arise in the first place. One can achieve this by aligning yourself in such a way that any potential enemy moves elsewhere and would not even consider approaching your peaceful domain. How you run your life can work in a similar way. When you operate in a peaceful manner making others feel special by your sincere ways, and at the same time appearing strong, you attract the best in people. 

Loneliness after a break-up

After relationship breakups, one can often find themselves feeling lonely, isolated, hurt, a great sense of despair. In these times it is important to surround yourself with loving, compassionate family and friends, and remind yourself consistently of why you are awesome, and it’s important at this time to immerse yourself in good, positive work, as well as regular exercise, meditation, and prayer. Put time into all things that increase your self-belief and faith that time heals everything and then and only then will you understand how to get over someone.

It is also very important to forgive yourself and others. Ensure that you know that it is okay if you do feel sadness and sorry, it takes time, but it all passes. No matter what the pain is, everyone will face pain and we can choose to let it destroy us or proactively live a life of joy and bliss. In such adverse times, use it if you must to reset and spend time on yourself and do the things that you have always wanted to do. This act alone will energise you.

This blog is drawn from Rise Warrior Rise: Awaken Your Soul, by Rohilesh R. Singh, the personal development book chosen by top corporations and by Top 1% Universities to build outstanding people.

Author Roh Singh is a highly sought after expert speaker and coach on personal transformation, personal success, wellbeing and virtues. Apply to join the exclusive team of people Roh coaches. Enquire about our coaching packages at [email protected]

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