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

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.

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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/

qz.com

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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. 

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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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Loneliness is a perception issue

Loneliness is a perception issue

Loneliness has more to do with our perceptions than how much company we have: it is just as possible to feel very lonely surrounded by people as it is to be content with little social contact.

Olivia Laing

Olivia Laing

“Loneliness, longing, does not mean one has failed but simply that one is alive.”

Dealing with loneliness through creativity

One way people have always dealt with loneliness is through creativity. By metamorphosing their reality into art, lonely people throughout history have managed to interchange the sense of community relationships could foster with their creative outputs.

The artist Edward Hopper (1882–1967) is known for his paintings of American cityscapes inhabited by closed-off figures who seem to embody a vision of modern loneliness.

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