With Thanksgiving around the corner, I normally write about gratitude. But, what I am hearing from so many is about the loneliness we are feeling. I’m not sure if it is the divisiveness of our political climate, our addiction to social media, or simply that we have become too busy to connect. Whatever the reason, it feels pervasive.
Feeling lonely is not necessarily being alone. Many of us are surrounded by people all day. We may even wish for solitude, or a time to reflect and be with ourselves. What makes a person lonely is the perception that we are not connected to others. Loneliness is sitting in a meeting while everyone else is on their phones texting or, not feeling worthy of sharing your opinions or thoughts. Loneliness can also be finding it difficult to sit in meaningful silence with a group of people you care about. It is a perception and unfortunately a growing experience. A recent poll found that 72% of Americans feel alone. Even more concerning is the research showing that loneliness has significant negative impacts on our health – physical and emotional.
So what do we do? Well, it’s not jumping on Facebook. While networking is valuable for many of us, it doesn’t necessarily make us feel less lonely. Fortunately, gratitude may help mitigate loneliness. Gratitude is the other side of the coin. In order to feel gratitude for someone you must be able to be vulnerable enough to accept something to be grateful for. True gratitude can only happen when you are feeling deeply connected to someone. A 2015 studyfound that gratitude is negatively correlated with loneliness. So, I have come back to practicing gratitude, but with a caveat. Practice gratitude mindfully and make an effort to be in meaningful community.
Being in community does not always mean being “on” or socializing. Community is about both sides of the coin – sharing, mindfully, and being grateful for being heard. But, we must slow down to achieve this. So take a breath and open up to what you are grateful for. This is where you will find connection.
I also invite you to the OIC community, to practice gratitude with us. Join us for a yoga class or for mindfulness meditation. It’s a way to practice gratitude and be in community with others who are also wanting to live life to the fullest.
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