Solemn Sadness: America's New Health Epidemic?

As you are reading this right now, You have the power to create and affect change, for better or for worse, just by your existence. You already exist, so that is a miracle in itself. As humans, we are innately an extremely social mammalian creatures. We literally need each other. We all connect on this one basic human entity: loneliness. Despite our crucial need for one another and the ever so rapidly advancing digital communication technologies, we may be more lonely than ever, with 1 in 5 suffering from persistent loneliness and 11.8 million American seniors facing isolation. Even scarier, loneliness kills! Loneliness can make you physically sick and drastically shorten your lifespan. No One deserves to suffer alone, especially since it can be easily treated and prevented.

I will admit, even though I am a young John Jay College student who has a whole life ahead of her, I have spent most of my life in solitude. Throughout the long periods of solemn sadness, I discovered ways to fight this pain. Whenever I start to feel the lonesome chills breezing on by once again, always Remember: You are not alone! Here are my top 5 ways to kick loneliness in the butt!

1) Talk to Someone!!!

There are over 7 billion people on this Earth and you are one of them. I may not be able to be with you physically, but my heart and spirit goes out to you right now. Your friends, family, loved ones, peers, community members, health care providers, and many other caring and genuine people will want to be with you so you don't have to go through this alone. With smart phones, the internet, text, emails, calls, Skype, IM, countless forums, and pen and paper, there are numerous ways to reach out and connect to someone. You can help yourself and others just by reaching out, and it all starts with the most simple word: Hi!

2) Watch TV!

Watching TV helps! Growing up, I, whether through introversion or through childhood circumstance imposed by my mother, I was alone....but with a TV! As a kid, my life was made more whole by the shows I would watch, on channels such as Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Disney, Boomerang, PBS Kids, and so many more. Now that I am older, I cherish Netlfix, HBO, Showtime, Anime, and endless hours of engaging content, only when I can find the time for it. YouTube helps the most because you are able to see and communicate with actual people. You should not make TV your predominant social connection, as too much usage aka "binge watching" can actually worsen loneliness; Although, it is one of the best ways to relieve yourself of the empty void, even if for a moment.

3) Choose a Hobby!

If TV isn't your thing, try reading a book like "Into The Wild" or "100 Years of Solitude", listening to music, or keeping yourself busy with a favorite hobby. There are hundreds of ways to have fun and meet up to engage with others who share similar interests. Whether you are into sports, food, photography, gardening, camping, video games, music, knitting, monster trucks, or even competitive dog grooming. (Just recently, I discovered coloring pages for adults that are guaranteed to help!)

3) Sleep!

Not only do we need daily adequate sleep and rest, it also helps when you are feeling alone. Snuggle up to your favorite pillow, close your eyes, and dream, and dream a good dream. Not only will you wake up feeling refreshed and more resilient to the loneliness, you will also have enjoyed the company of others in your dreams, which can sometimes feel so real. Whenever my happy solitude starts to dim, I will often try to hit the snooze button to take safe refuge from the creeping loneliness. Some of my best memories and people I have met were from a dream.

4) Volunteer!

You can make the best of your loneliness by helping others, who may be suffering from loneliness too. Not only is volunteering a great way to make friends and expand your social network, you also are contributing to the greater good and truly making a positive impact. Through volunteering, you will have the chance to encounter people from all walks of life and treasure the diversity of the 7 billion of us on here. Reach out to a non-profit organization, your local church, food pantry, soup kitchen, or start your own cause. There are a million ways to conquer loneliness, reach out, and help, as I hope this article will help you too!

5) Free Hugs!

Did you know, babies starved of touch die prematurely? If you are lonely, odds are you are probably lacking necessary human physical contact. When we make skin-to-skin contact, a powerful hormone called Oxytocin is released, which promotes our well-being and longevity. Simply speaking, not only do we need each other, we need love. Join the Big Hug: Help spread the love that we all want and need by giving someone a hug today!

No matter what, you are a living breathing and sentient being worthy and fully deserving of all the basic human necessities with love, kindness, respect, compassion, and empathy, and most of all: a friend. I challenge you to try one of these whenever you feel lonely as I truly hope they help. You can share this passage with anyone you know who may be feeling lonely too. I wish you all the very best. Stay Strong, Stay Safe, and Remember: "Positively, You are not alone."

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