In last week’s blog post I gave a summary of the recent 81-page report by the U.S. Surgeon General on loneliness and social isolation. It was all about the problem. Today I’m going to summarize the solutions to loneliness offered in the report, followed by my brief comments about each of them.
1. Understand the power of social connection and the consequences of social disconnection by learning how the vital components (structure, function, and quality) can impact your relationships, health, and well-being.
I don’t understand this government-speak about the obvious. People who are lonely know it’s a problem affecting their well-being, no matter how you slice and dice it.
2. Invest time in nurturing your relationships through consistent, frequent, and high-quality engagement with others. Take time each day to reach out to a friend or family member.
Easier said than done. Most lonely people would love to do this, but they usually find people unavailable for such engagement. They have few if any friends in the first place, and they often are estranged from family members. So while they want to engage, there’s no one to engage with.
3. Minimize distraction during conversation to increase the quality of the time you spend with others. For instance, don’t check your phone during meals with friends, important conversations, and family time.
Now we’re on to something. This makes sense. Be fully present with the person in front of you. If you don’t you just alienate people. This is the first good solution to loneliness so far.
4. Seek out opportunities to serve and support others, either by helping your family, co-workers, friends, or strangers in your community or by participating in community service.
This is helpful. Getting outside of ourselves usually is. The problem with loneliness though, is that it often leads to depression and sometimes when we’re depressed we just don’t have the physical or emotional energy to do what we know we need to do.
5. Be responsive, supportive, and practice gratitude. As we practice these behaviors, others are more likely to reciprocate, strengthening our social bonds, improving relationship satisfaction, and building social capital.
Yeah, I suppose. Be grateful and supporting others is always a good thing. I’m not so sure it’s a solution to loneliness, though.
6. Actively engage with people of different backgrounds and experiences to expand your understanding of and relationships with others, given the benefits associated with diverse connections.
This certainly has merit. I’ve done several podcasts about developing relationships with people different from ourselves. Casting a wider net of potential relationships can be another partial solution to loneliness.
7. Participate in social and community groups such as fitness, religious, hobby, professional, and community service organizations to foster a sense of belonging, meaning, and purpose.
Here is one of the rare occasions the surgeon general’s report mentions religious groups as a solution to loneliness. In theory, involvement in a church or other religious group can ease loneliness. But in practical terms, sometimes the church or religious group can be the source of loneliness. I plan to talk more about this when season 8 of the podcast resumes.
8. Reduce practices that lead to feelings of disconnection from others. These include harmful and excessive social media use, time spent in unhealthy relationships, and disproportionate time in front of screens instead of people.
I like this solution to loneliness. I’m always a fan of doing less of something that gets in the way of achieving our goals. It frees us up to do more of what really matters and what moves the needle ahead in our relationships.
9. Seek help during times of struggle with loneliness or isolation by reaching out to a family member, friend, counselor, health care provider, or the 988 crisis line.
Again, this is easier said than done. The solution and my take on it are similar to solution number 2. I’m not familiar with “the crisis 988” line. Are you? I’ll have to look into this.
10. Be open with your healthcare provider about significant social changes in your life, as this may help them understand potential health impacts and guide them to provide recommendations to mitigate health risks.
Hmn. Doing this with the right people should evoke empathy, which can be helpful. I could be wrong, but I don’t see this solution to loneliness as being all that effective.
11. Make time for civic engagement. This could include being a positive and constructive participant in political discourse and gatherings (e.g., town halls, school board meetings, local government hearings).
I'm not so sure about this one. If the goal is to keep busy with activities with other people, I suppose this would help. But with the current state of political discord, I can envision where this would increase a sense of loneliness, not diminish it.
12. Reflect on the core values of connection in how you approach others in conversation and through the actions you take. Key questions to ask yourself when considering your interactions with others include: How might kindness change this situation?
This is the best solution to loneliness of then all in the surgeon general’s report. Examine and reflect upon our values and then extend kindness to others can be a partial antidote to loneliness. I’m going to comment on this at a later date on the podcast.
13. What would it look like to treat others with respect? How can I be of service? How can I reflect my concern for and commitment to others?
This final solution to loneliness in the report is another good one. It’s another example of extending ourselves to others, even if it’s just mentally. Where we choose to be less critical of others and give them the benefit of the doubt. Where we assume the best about someone instead of the worst.
Click here to read the entire surgeon general’s report.
Other solutions to loneliness
I’ve got several ideas for our You Were Made for This podcast coming up in the fall related to loneliness and social isolation. One is about a group of men and what they are doing to connect with each other. Another is a story of women who recently moved to New York City and what they did to ease their loneliness.. I’ll have more on this later in season 8 of the podcast.
And of course, there is Benjamin Franklin’s solution to his loneliness that I talked about in episode 032 of our You Were Made For This. I find his solution fascinating, and certainly repeatable here in the 21st century. I’ll have a link to that episode at the end.
What about you?
I wonder which of these 13 solutions to loneliness offered by the U.S. surgeon general you would find helpful. Please let me know in the comment box below.
Another thing I would like to know is what has your experience been with the church doing things to ease the loneliness of its members. I’m talking about things other than the typical “join a small group,” “teach a Sunday School class,” “volunteer for ….”
Other Relationship Resources
Last week’s blog post, “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Social Isolation”
Podcast Episode 032: “What Am I Here For? What is My Purpose in Life?”
There’s more where this comes from
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