I listened to an interesting presentation the other day on loneliness. The gentleman stated that 1 in 10 people in Australia reported lack of social support – that’s the equivalent to the entire population of South Australia. Their research indicated 1 in 4 experiencing an episode of loneliness recently – that’s the entire population of South Australia and the entire population of Victoria. They went on to say that 1:2 people reported being lonely for 1 day a week. That is the equivalent of the entire population of South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
Loneliness is its own pandemic. So with all viruses there is a desperate search for a vaccine to ward off the symptoms and make us immune to the illness. So what is the vaccine for loneliness? It’s social connections. Interestingly the core to those social connections is kindness, your one act of kindness has a positive impact on you and then has a further positive impact on 3 more people. Imagine something so small and simple as an act of kindness changing so many people’s experience.
So how does it work? Imagine it is a hot day, you see an old man carrying some heavy grocery bags down a side street away from the supermarket. You start a conversation with him and offer to carry one of the bags, give a cheeky grin and tell him, he is doing you a favour, it’s saving you from visiting the gym. You walk the bags to his car and ask him about his life. His wife is suffering from dementia, she does not always recognise him. He tells you about his daughter and how she helps when she can.
You know when you say goodbye that he will tell his wife about the nice person who helped him on the hot day, he will tell his daughter that a stranger was kind and he will remember that you helped for and he will remember the warm feelings of kindness he experienced.
In your body it will increase your oxytocin levels, which will increase your sense of trust in others. It will encourage you to act in a kind way again. This small action, that cost nothing and showed no vulnerability from you. This feel good internal drug is likely to make you act in a kind way again and the kindness will connect you to others.
Other options for increasing social connections include – compassion, listening, giving, volunteering, self-awareness, being non-judgemental, rapport-building and taking an interest in others.
My favourite is still acts of kindness. They can be anything from giving to charity or smiling at a stranger, telling someone you like their shoes, being nice to the check out chick. Those small acts will increase your sense of connectedness and reduce your loneliness. And a someone to be kind and create genuine human connection is really what we all want in this world, isn’t it?