I recently read The New York Times Bestseller Lost Connections by Johann Hari. Simply put, Hari breaks down causes of depression and ways we can try to mitigate it. As someone who has worked alone in my businesses for the better part of the last three years, the chapter specifically on loneliness held some answers for me.
Now, more than ever, we are dealing with a great sense of loneliness. Even if you are living with your partner or family or roommates, we are still disconnected from our greater community and family members, and — as you’ll find out — a collaborative, deep, driving purpose.
Hari writes, “Loneliness hangs over our culture today like a thick smog.”
This isn’t brand new information. According to a 2018 national survey by Cigna, 46% of 20,000 U.S. adults reported they sometimes or always feel alone. It’s especially heightened now — and some say it will continue for months to come as we question our every move, every physical touch, etc.
Hari continues, “Becoming acutely lonely [the experiment found] was as stressful as experiencing a physical attack.” (Physical attack in this case, some sort of physical abuse.) “The stunning thing was that loneliness is not merely the result of depression...it leads to depression.”
“The vitally important corollary is that evolution shaped us not only to feel bad in isolation, but to feel insecure.”
So, how does Hari suggest we solve the issue of loneliness and isolation? And how do we do it in 2020?
The good news is this: “Loneliness isn’t the physical absence of other people, he said — it’s the sense that you’re not sharing anything that matters with anyone such as a goal that matters to you, or a status, or a tribe."
“Twelve different studies found that the more materialistic and extrinsically motivated you become, the more anxious you will be.”
We might be sharing a common goal, but the purpose is usually to gain something — money, status, pride. This is the culture we live in, and what we've been trained to go after.
So, the idea is to find someone and share a goal that matters deeply to you, where you will not get payment, status, or pride in return. In other words, something that you don't go immediately posting on social media. Something outside of paying work.
My challenge to you is to think about what deeply matters to you. Get a pen and a journal and brainstorm. Open your Notes app and start typing. Who in your life might share that same fire? Connect with them (in person or virtually), and start to share. We’re going to need meaningful connection, now more than ever.
Additional reading: The risks of social isolation