BY EMILY O'CONNOR, COMMUNICATIONS SUMMER INTERN
Brigham Young University identified the “next big public health issue, on par with obesity and substance abuse” in a Time Magazine article from March 2015 – loneliness.
“…technology like texting and social media has made it easier to avoid forming substantive relationships in the flesh and blood. Yet research shows that relationships can improve health in a variety of ways, by helping us manage stress, improving the functioning of the immune system and giving meaning to people’s lives,” according to the article.
Building healthy, in-person relationships can literally make you live longer, but still many of us prefer to carry on alone. I think in some ways, we believe it’s easier to keep to ourselves, at least for me that’s true. If I don’t open up to people about my stressors and struggles, maybe they’ll just go away. They don’t seem so real if they’re locked away in my mind.
Those stressors and struggles are also never dealt with if they’re locked in my mind. I keep pushing them away into the corners of my brain until it seems like they’ve gone away completely! But always something triggers that hidden crisis, and I fall apart.
On the other hand, some of us yearn for those deep relationships but can’t seem to find them. We start to build friendships, but they become rocky or the bottom falls out for some reason.
These problems seem like opposites: not wanting to let people in vs. yearning to let people in. But they might share a solution – vulnerability.
Mostly I’m afraid to be vulnerable about my struggles because I’m afraid of the way people will think of me. “Oh she struggles with that?” I imagine them whispering. “I don’t think I can hang out with her anymore” or “She’s not the person I thought she was.”
But every time I overcome this fear, I am surprised by the response. Sometimes that person has been struggling in the same ways and was also afraid to open up about it. Other times that person welcomes my brokenness and takes it on as her own as she carries my burden. Inherently that relationship is strengthened, and in the future I know I can come to that person with anything. That broken piece of me no longer has to huddle in the corners of my mind. It is freed in confession.
Or maybe you have exciting, life-changing developments in your, but you don’t have anyone to share them with. Life in general is so much sweeter when it’s shared. Everyone deserves a companion who will both cry and weep alongside them, maybe even at the same time.
These in-person relationships and conversations can be the antidote to your loneliness, the antidote to the health crisis you didn’t even know you had.
If you want to find an accepting and loving community, check out these Grace resources:
Support groups & counseling