According to a study done this year by health insurer, Cigna, Americans are experiencing an epidemic of loneliness. Cigna administered an online survey to 20,000 adults using the UCLA Loneliness Scale to calculate scores. As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “54 percent of respondents said they sometimes or always feel that no one knows them very well. Even more (56 percent) reported sometimes or always feeling like the people they’re surrounded with “are not necessarily with them.” Young adults scored the highest on the survey. Loneliness not only creates difficult feelings like isolation but also contributes to health risks.
Chronic feelings of loneliness can increase the development of high blood pressure and heart disease. It can also impair the effectiveness of the immune system, making you more susceptible to illness and other chronic diseases. Feeling lonely and isolated can be tough and outright painful. I’ve experienced this, especially when I moved back to St. Louis.
I haven’t found St. Louis to be a very friendly place. It’s generally extremely cliquish. I’ve consistently met people who have networks of friends they’ve know since even grade school. And they’re not interested in opening up the circle. It can be very hard to make genuine and lasting connections. Most of the people I’ve connected with aren’t from St. Louis, and then of course, they move… Only within the last year or so does it seem as if I’m finally meeting like-minded souls who are open to welcoming new friends. It’s been a long journey.
Being an only child I’m used to spending time alone and as an introvert I need time to myself. But when I’ve wanted companionship since moving here I’ve often had to suck it up and create my own social life, venturing out into the world on my own. Though my ability to be independent is one of the things I love about myself the most, not having a network of support was very challenging at times. I kept my spirits afloat by keeping a few things in mind.
I realized I have a well-defined idea of friendship and I’m not going to find that in a lot of people. That idea took the pressure of me to make friends and enjoy people with fewer expectations. I did take a few risks and allowed myself to be more open to new friendships. I got disappointed – a lot. But without the expectations I got over the disappointments easier and appreciated that I tried. I also considered that it just may take more time that I realized to “find my tribe”. Finally, I did connect with a few people who’ve added value to my life.
If you’re feeling lonely hang in there. Be gentle with yourself, do what you can to increase your chances of connecting with kind souls and believe that you will make fun and supportive connections. For extra support read 5 Crucial Truths for Overcoming Loneliness in the Digital Age by Happify.