With the explosion of technology, we seem to be more connected to each other than ever – but chronic loneliness is becoming a widespread health concern.
Why do we feel so lonely? Numerous changes in society are cited as the cause. We’re more mobile – many live far away from family and friends. A growing reliance on the social side of technology means less personal contact. This can lead to the breakdown of what were once considered common civic and community affairs that led to lasting relationships!
Research tells us that we are “social animals”. As such, we need to feel connected to someone. From a young age we are encouraged to develop relationships – some of which last for a lifetime. But not all relationships qualify as a satisfactory connection for our emotional health – some friends may actually be “frenemies” or may give us inconsistent emotional support. Additionally, we can lose those dear to us – through various events – and find ourselves bereft of what we are convinced we most need.
Guy Winch Ph.D. a clinical psychologist, speaker, and author, encourages us in his TED talk to be more aware of our emotional health. Chronic loneliness, he warns, creates a deep wound and poses a significant risk to long-term health and longevity. He recommends taking “emotional first aid” steps – looking after emotional wounds as you would a physical one.
So what do Winch and others suggest would be a first aid Band-Aid for loneliness? Psychological advice ranges from improving our social skills to creating opportunities to meet other people. But, what if we have social connections, but still feel “lonely in a crowd?” What if we have friendships but don’t feel connected and complete?
The answer to these queries and concerns has a remarkable source in research that point to spiritual resources as a buffer to the adverse effects of loneliness! The Bible is full of promises that God is always there for us, such as: “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deut.31:8 NLT)
Perhaps none may feel loneliness more keenly that those who have lost a spouse. When my husband suddenly passed away, I felt incredibly alone. My family lived far away and his family estranged themselves from me. My friends tried to be supportive, but I felt a deep emptiness and loneliness that no person could fill. From my study of Christian Science I had learned that God, as divine Love, is ever-present. Deepening this study felt like the best avenue to truly fulfill my emotional need.
Throughout her seminal work on Christian healing and redemption, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy expounds on the ever-presence of God’s love that uplifts and supports each one of us. One of my favourite passages is found on page 494: “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.”
In my study and prayers, I reasoned that if this infinite Love is always present, I could lean on it and it would strengthen and guide me. And so I could lack nothing. I found that my true identity as a child of God was complete and always had been. One day I knew I was healed of grief and loneliness, and the feelings never returned.
Developing an understanding of God’s presence and letting it fill in the spaces of loneliness in our lives doesn’t mean distancing ourselves from family, friends and colleagues. We don’t have to turn into ascetics and live a cloistered life! In fact, it can enrich all of our human connections to recognize that the good we see expressed has a divine source. My relationships are richer because I appreciate – but know I am not dependent on – them for feeling satisfied and cared for.
Relationships can be complex; emotions can rule the day and the loss of a loved one can leave us bereft. But, as I discovered, establishing a permanent bond with a loving divine Parent, leaves us independent of the unpredictability of human relationships – however meaningful and cherished. Therefore, no matter the circumstances, we always have a truly satisfying connection.
This article was published on Metroland Media, @NiagaraThisWeek