It seems obvious that the effects of loneliness and social isolation are detrimental to physical, emotional, and spiritual health. But do we really understand the magnitude of this mental health issue? According to a recent study conducted by Cigna, 60% of adults experience loneliness and social isolation. This marks a 7% increase in the findings from last year as now 3 out of 5 adults report these feelings.
Let that sink in for a moment...3 out of 5 adults! That means most of us reading this right now have experienced or know someone who has experienced significant loneliness. Is this you, a family member, close friend, or co-worker?
With technology use increasing both at home and in the workplace, maybe this statistic doesn't surprise you. As Americans, we now have the ability to choose virtual relationships over physical almost without exception. We are disconnecting from real relationships and are instead spending more time alone, which results in feeling less rested and more stressed. Go anywhere in public and you'll find people with faces buried in their cell phones, fingers typing vigorously on their laptops.
Now, I’m not saying technology is an all-encompassing evil. There are many redeeming qualities: it allows families and friends to connect across borders, stay-at-home parents to earn an income while caring for children, and increases efficiency amongst industries. However, what I am saying is that as a 21st century culture, we have a difficult time unplugging from technology, feeling like in doing so we might miss out altogether. It seems what we’re really missing out on is being truly present with one another.
So how can we as a nursing community decrease this experience of loneliness and social isolation? How can we be more intentional and vulnerable in our relationships? Maybe it starts with having lunch weekly with a co-worker or looking a patient in the eyes and giving them space to express their feelings fully with someone who cares to listen wholeheartedly. How can we increase our own social interactions sans screens and combat this always-on, never-off mentality? Could it look like putting the phone down for an hour after work and instead having a face-to-face conversation?
As Valentine's Day is upon us, I think it’s important to remind ourselves of how many around us are experiencing loneliness and social isolation. Would we be conscious of this and share the love of Christ with others? All it takes is a kind word, simple gesture, or act of service. Write a card, offer to pray, lift up with encouragement.
As we reflect on the meaning of love, would we be reminded of the true love of Christ; the perfect love of the Father who laid down the life of His own Son so that we would feel the depth of His care and concern for us, His children? Through God we are welcomed into a holy family, joined together with our brothers and sisters, and invited into a joy-filled eternity with our Lord. As we ponder what it means to love one another, may we meditate on these words from Scripture that encourage us to reach out and share God's love with those who are feeling isolated and lonely. May we be the hands and feet of Jesus, sharing the message of His love in the workplace, in our friendships, our homes, our communities, and our world. Not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day.
John 13:34-35 ESV - "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Ephesians 2:19-22 ESV- "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit."
Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV - "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
1 John 3:16 ESV- "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters."
This post previously appeared, in part, in Charting the Way.
Jessica Harper is the Marketing & Communications Manager for NCF.