Making Connections

Frances Kolarek-150 wideBy Frances Kolarek —

“Hell is other people,” Jean Paul Sartre, the existentialist, once wrote.

Au contraire,” an anonymous source declares, “Hell is the lack of other people.”

And Mother Theresa chimes in with: “Loneliness is the most terrible poverty.”

Defining loneliness, my well-worn Webster’s offers words like “desolate, bleak, abandoned and isolated.”

“Solitary” merits “recluse,” implying choice.

Recent research involving over 3 million people has established that isolation may harm physical health and even hasten death. It postulates that social isolation is actually more predictive of death than high blood pressure or taking cholesterol medication. The study, published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, limited itself to those who feel lonely, although they are not cut off from companionship.

Even though your life keeps you in touch with others, it notes, you may still feel overwhelmed with loneliness. If you feel like you are living on the fringes of a world enjoyed by everybody else, you need to fix that for the sake of your physical health.

A recent issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter suggests: If loneliness is something you genuinely want to change, it may require you to step out of your comfort zone. It acknowledges that friendships require effort. And notes that a pet can provide many of the same benefits as human friendship.

HealthDay News offers some specific steps:

  • Acknowledge and accept that you feel lonely.
  • Take an active role in reaching out to those around you, whether it’s friends, family or work colleagues.
  • If you’re struggling with a loss, talk about your grief.
  • Get involved in a group activity to associate with others who have similar interests.
  • Take for a class in a foreign language or a subject that interests you. Learning does good things for the brain.

Collington offers numerous opportunities to engage in creative activities with others. Our Flower Committee engages a group of women who produce some 25 fresh floral arrangements for display in Collington’s public spaces. Not just visitors, but we residents take pride and pleasure in them.

A ”Country Store” run by resident volunteers offers multiple opportunities to meet other members of the community. If I feel lonely I run down for a loaf of bread and a pleasant chat with the person on duty. We both benefit.

Collington’s resident Health Committee recently sponsored a session on grief counseling.

And you can take a summer course in literature or art history here.

I began an earlier blog with the following words from Love & Survival, a book by Dr. Dean Ornish recommended in the Mayo Clinic Health Letter.

”I am not aware of any other factor in medicine that has a greater impact on survival than the healing power of love and intimacy. Not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery.”

If you need motivation to connect with others, there you have it.


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