Having purpose helps us feel less lonely

Jul 31, 2020

Most of the world is in its fifth month of lockdown measures. With some schools still closed, community centres shut and many still confined to their homes, loneliness is on the rise 😞

Chances are, everyone’s felt lonely at some point. But even before COVID-19, there were signs that we’re suffering from loneliness on a much bigger scale.

In January, a survey found that 79% of Gen Zers, 71% of millennials and 50% of baby boomers feel lonely.

In addition, the number of people belonging to community groups such as sports leagues and volunteer groups has fallen from 75 to 57% over the last 10 years.

While scientists are doing their utmost to understand how COVID-19 works, researchers are already aware of the impact that social isolation and loneliness can have on the body. Those who feel disconnected to others are far more likely to experience physical and mental illnesses.

The reason for this is that human beings are hard-wired for social connection.

So how can we cultivate social well-being at a time when connecting with others is difficult, and even dangerous for some?

While there’s no quick answer, a recent study found that developing something called “eudaimonic well-being”—a sense of purpose and meaning—is one of the most effective ways to combat loneliness.

Working towards a bigger, more meaningful purpose that goes beyond doing things for our own benefit had a positive impact on people’s physical health in this study.

Here are some ways that all of us, whatever situation we’re in, can help protect against loneliness and isolation.

Cultivating community

The basis of connection is having something in common. And sometimes, the thing we have in common is where we live. Our street, our neighbourhood, our town. There are friendly people all around us with interests, skills and a listening ear to lend. You can use your local networks to connect with others nearby and engage in the things that matter to you—whether that’s supporting local businesses, gardening or making a new friend.

Use a tool

Technology is often blamed for the rise in loneliness. People are seen to spend lots of time scrolling through social feeds without ever interacting in real life. But recent research at Harvard has shown that how you use such platforms matters more than how much you use them. We can all benefit from adopting digital habits that allow us to create meaningful human connections—it’s what CareMonger was made for.

Lend a hand

Being of service, volunteering for an organisation we believe in, helping a neighbour and contributing to charities with missions we want to support, can bring more meaning and purpose in our lives. The act of giving not only makes us feel good, it’s actually good for us too.

While current times have made human connection harder than ever, we can take this opportunity to recognise the importance of connections for our health. We can use our local networks and technology to spread kindness and cultivate ours and our local community’s social well-being.

📷 c/o Ian Schneider on Unsplash.

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