The world has been experiencing a significant increase in loneliness; and now the world is gripped with the escalating cases of COVID-19 coronavirus infections.
There is plenty in the media about the COVID-19 coronavirus – and our New Zealand Government is doing everything they can to stop the spread of the virus, to keep us physically well and safe. We are doing this by keeping our physical distance, as well as ensuring that only small units of people are together away from all other units.
These very necessary environmental conditions that are reducing the spread of the virus, are setting up conditions to affect loneliness.
To keep ourselves holistically well we also need to avoid loneliness in ourselves and in others. Just as we have been learning about the COVID-19 coronavirus, we ought to learn how we become lonely – and how loneliness can spread.
Dr Sarah L. Wright gives insight into how our environment can ‘cause, exacerbate, and perpetuate loneliness’ as well as how individuals interpret their world. While Sarah’s research is in a work context, we can look at the valuable insights that we can bring into our home units while we are self-isolating; as well as being aware how our new work conditions can affect our loneliness, and that of others. ‘The loneliness contagion, through its direct and indirect influences on emotions and judgements and behaviours, may lead to subtle but important ripple effects in groups and organisations.’
What we need to remember is that without us being aware, our actions such as what we say, how we walk, what eye contact we have, subliminally affect others… and when we become lonely, we send signals that can make those around us lonely. That means even when you were not lonely initially, your environmental situation and your interactions with others can cause you to be lonely. So what can you do? As you start sliding into negative thinking and loneliness, do everything you can to bring yourself out before you affect others.
Increase your self-awareness. Lighten up! Connect with others with meaningful conversations!
When we are already lonely we tend to over-analyse what people do. Subliminally again, we tend to jump to conclusions… interpret these as hurting us; and we withdraw… becoming lonelier as a result of others. So what can you do? Keep perspective!! So as you walk around the house, or at work, and your smile or cheery wave is not returned – you are not in a “threatening” situation, as in all likelihood your family member or colleague is simply absorbed in their own world… thinking deeply about something, and didn’t see you. From time to time people will need solitude (quality personal space); some more than others. Likewise, we urge people who take time out to remember to physically and emotionally “come back” and join those who appreciate your company!
Balance our times of solitude with times of meaningfully connecting with people who need us.
All the best to everyone as we contain the spread of loneliness and the COVID-19 coronavirus. We will have more information in future posts… meantime look through our website for a greater understanding of loneliness.