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The world's happiest people have a beautifully simple way to tackle loneliness

Becoming less lonely

Ventilen, or “friend to one” in Danish, is an organization that helps 15-to-25-year-olds get together twice a week with two or three volunteers. Together, the people in the group play games, make meals, go to the cinema, and build human connections.

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The world's happiest people have a beautifully simple way to tackle loneliness

The world's happiest people have a beautifully simple way to tackle loneliness

https://qz.com/1591563/the-danish-have-designed-a-simple-way-to-cope-with-loneliness/

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Key Ideas

Becoming less lonely

Ventilen, or “friend to one” in Danish, is an organization that helps 15-to-25-year-olds get together twice a week with two or three volunteers. Together, the people in the group play games, make meals, go to the cinema, and build human connections.

The prevalence of loneliness

Loneliness is becoming an "epidemic" and is associated with illnesses like heart disease, dementia, depression, anxiety, and longevity.

  • One study revealed that 22% of Americans, 23% of Brits, and 9% of Japanese adults said they felt lonely all the time.
  • 40% of people aged 16 - 24 said they were often lonely, according to the BBC.

Coming together

Back in 1999, a support group called Bright Point was formed to fill the need of friends. But when people came together, no one talked. It was only after games were introduced as a catalyst that friendships started forming. Later, making meals and exercising was added successfully.

The program is not without challenges. Many lonely people may feel intimidated and won't attend. But designating a space for gathering and activities is a good step toward tackling loneliness. 

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Loneliness before quarantine

We crave intimacy. And yet, long before the present pandemic, with its forced isolation and social distancing, humans had begun building their own separate cells. 

Before modern times...

Loneliness is a form of grief

It is an umbrella term we use to cover for all sorts of things most people would rather not name and have no idea how to fix.
Plenty of people like to be alone. But solitude and seclusion are different from loneliness. Loneliness is a state of profound distress.

The evolutionary theory of loneliness

Primates need to belong to an intimate social group in order to survive; this is especially true for humans.
Separation from your group (either finding yourself alone or finding yourself among a group of people who do not know and understand you) triggers a fight-or-flight response.

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Loneliness Is a State of Mind

Loneliness, according to many experts, is not necessarily about being alone. Instead, if you feel alone and isolated, then that is how loneliness plays into your state of mind....

Causes
  • Loneliness is strongly connected to genetics. 
  • Situational variables, such as physical isolation, moving to a new location, divorce and the death of someone significant in a person's life can also lead to feelings of loneliness. 
  • Loneliness can be a symptom of a psychological disorder such as depression.
  • Loneliness can also be attributed to internal factors such as low self-esteem.
Health Risks Associated With Loneliness

Loneliness has a wide range of negative effects on both physical and mental health, including:

  • Depression and suicide
  • Cardiovascular disease and stroke
  • Increased stress levels
  • Decreased memory and learning
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Poor decision-making
  • Alcoholism and drug abuse
  • The progression of Alzheimer's disease
  • Altered brain function

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The antidote to loneliness
The antidote to loneliness

When people were forced into social isolation, a light was also shining on another crisis - loneliness.

The antidote to loneliness is accessible to all of us: friendship. The shared global ...

Friendship

Science shows friendship is critical for our happiness, health, and longevity.

* In the 1970s and 1980s, some epidemiologists and sociologists showed that socially isolated individuals over age 66 had a 30 percent increased risk of early mortality.

* Studies reveal that social connection improves cardiovascular functioning, reduces susceptibility to inflammation and viral disease, sharpens cognition, reduces depression, lowers stress, and even slows biological aging.

Definition of friendship

Friendship requires at least three things: It should be long-lasting, positive, and cooperative. Friendship nearly always includes a willingness to help, especially in times of crisis.

In short, friendship is creating bonded groups that act as a buffer against life's stresses.

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A public health problem

Most people consider loneliness a personal problem to be figured out by individuals. 

However, a paper published in the American Journal of Public Health identi...

Don’t blame social media

Among the theories on why there is more loneliness today is more time online and less time in front of people. 

However, levels of in-person interactions, physical and mental wellness and life balance are more likely to predict loneliness than social media usage.

Young and lonely

Generation Z (ages 18-22) had the highest loneliness scores, followed by the millennials (ages 23-37). The Greatest Generation (adults ages 72 and older) were the least lonely. 

Lonely people are less able to pick up on positive social stimuli, like others’ attention and commitment signals, so they withdraw prematurely – in many cases before they’re actually socially isolated.

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Why you need friends

Friendship helps protect the brain and body from stress, anxiety and depression. Being around trusted others, in essence, signals safety and security,

Research suggests that you only need ...

Finding friends

Friendships are always about common passions. Whatever you’re into, someone else is too. Let your passion guide you toward people. Volunteer, for example, take a new course or join a committee at your local religious center. If you like yoga, start going to classes regularly.

Once you meet a potential future friend, invite them to do something. You have to put yourself out there.

It takes time

The process takes time, and you may experience false starts. Not everyone will want to put in the effort necessary to be a good friend.

Which is reason enough to nurture the friendships you already have–even those than span many miles. Start by scheduling a weekly phone call. 

The epidemic of loneliness

The elderly are lonely. Teens are lonely. People in cities and rural areas are lonely to such an extent that it is considered a public health issue.

One report found that nearly half of r...

Practice small talk

Talk to people you encounter throughout your day. When you enter a coffee shop, make a simple comment about the weather to make impersonal interactions a bit more friendly.

If you practice this small talk in a variety of situations, it's easier to start a conversation with people you want to get to know better.

Get comfortable

Many people desire any company because they don't like the discomfort when they are alone.

Learn to enjoy your own company. Start by reading, watching TED Talks that will make you think, or start a gratitude journal.

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The need for close friendships

We are social beings and we need to create intimacy with other people, for the well-being of our body, mind, and heart.

Close friendships regulate ...

Defining closeness
Close friendships need intimacy and reciprocation to exist.
  • Intimacy means being able to be fully yourself and be seen and understood by others.
  • Reciprocation means that both people feel they are seen and understood by the other person. 

“We think about relationships as things that happen to us, but the truth is that we make them happen.”

“We think about relationships as things that happen to us, but the truth is that we make them happen.”

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Post-Breakup Loneliness

The process of breaking up can sometimes be compared to the death of a loved one.

Transitional Loneliness

Major changes can create a sense of loneliness, even if they're positive. You might be leaving a job or starting a new job, ending a relationship or embarking on a new relationship, getting married, getting divorced, [or] starting a family.

When struggling with the adjustment period, it can help to acknowledge the feeling and also acknowledge that it's likely temporary.

Caregiver Loneliness

There's very specific loneliness that can creep in when you're responsible for the care of another person — be it an elderly parent, a sick sibling, a disabled partner, etc.

So even though it's a big job, it's important to not forget about yourself. Find a supportive friend to talk to without judgment, or attend a support group.

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Detecting Loneliness
Detecting Loneliness
  • Scientific literature has linked loneliness to depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and drug abuse.
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Loneliness is subjective

It's possible to be completely isolated and feel invigorated.

It is also possible to be surrounded by a crowd or be accompanied by close friends and feel lonely.

Research on loneliness findings
  • Research showed that after social isolation, subjects' brain scans showed more activity in the midbrain when shown pictures of social cues.
  • When subjects were hungry but had not been socially isolated, they showed a similar reaction to food cues, but not social ones. This shows that the drive for social contact and for things like food seems to be represented in a similar way.

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Difference between solitude and loneliness

We use the two terms interchangeably because we’ve been conditioned to think of them as the same state.

Loneliness is being alone — and not liking it. It’s a feeli...

Connected but alone

From the telegram to the phone to the mobile to the internet, all major cultural inventions have served the same purpose: to bring us closer together.

Today, we’ve reached peak hyper-connectivity. We can cross oceans at the touch of the button, speak to someone, anywhere, 24/7. And yet, statistics report that we’ve never felt so lonely. The technologies connecting us are isolating us.

The truth about loneliness

You can be surrounded by people, at a party, or in the office, and still feel lonely to your core.

And you can be alone, millions of miles away from any human contact, and still feel joyfully connected to the world.

It’s less about our circumstances, more about how we react to them.

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