In the words of the great Tony Robbins, “The quality of your life depends on the quality of your relationships”. As humans, we are hardwired to crave connection with others. And yet, in a world where we can instantaneously make contact through social media and other technology, we feel more isolated than ever. Our tendency to be ‘plugged in’ 24/7 is compromising our ability to be present. And it’s affecting our happiness, our health and our productivity.
As a coach and speaker, I’m extremely passionate about the epidemic of loneliness and how to tackle it. I’ve managed to create an awesome life where I feel a strong connection to my family, my tribe, my clients and my community. I want everyone to feel the same sense of genuine fulfillment.
Loneliness is defined as our emotional response to the amount of personal contact we want and the amount we’re receiving. And it’s not related to the quantity of our relationships but rather the quality of them. You could have hundreds of friends, a big team at work, and a partner at home and still feel disconnected and misunderstood.
While we have known for a while that loneliness can have a huge impact on our mental health, only in recent years have we recognised just how destructive it can be for our bodies.
A 2017 study found that feeling lonely can pose a bigger risk for premature death than smoking or obesity. In fact, loneliness can lead to a host of chronic conditions including heart disease, stroke, cancer and dementia. An even more sobering fact is the chronic loneliness is on the rise in Australia with 1 in 4 Australians feeling lonely.
Dan Schwabel, author of Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation states that, “Despite the illusion of 24/7 connection, in reality, most workers feel isolated from their colleagues, their organisation and its leaders. What they crave most – and what research increasingly shows to be the hallmark of the highest-performing workplace cultures – is a sense of authentic connection with others.”
Many of us spend 40 hours or more per week at work. This time has a big impact on our social connections and sense of wellbeing. When I was working 50 to 60 hours a week as a nurse unit manager I remember receiving a picture of my son blowing out his first birthday candle. In that moment, despite being an incredibly positive person, I felt an overwhelming sense of loneliness and so many other emotions. I made a change, launched my business and started working towards creating a life that enabled more choice and flexibility, which meant quality moments with my loved ones.
As an entrepreneur, executive or business owner, you owe it to yourself to prioritise genuine and meaningful social connection. Not only is it the right thing to do on a human level, it’s food for your soul and makes good business sense. Loneliness impacts health and poor health affects everything including your creativity, motivation and productivity.
I’m a big advocate of changing the rules around how we live our lives. And that relates to every aspect of our lives including work, family, and community. Meaningful work, better work/life integration and ongoing support from family, friends and an experienced coach, are all important considerations in the fight against loneliness. Here are a few ways you can help yourself and others feel connected, resilient, excited and optimistic about the future.
People feel more connected if they can see your face and hear your voice. Face-to-face communication also enhances emotional intelligence (which is everything), as you’re able to read someone’s body language and tap into how they’re feeling.
If you can catch up face-to-face, do. If you can’t, try and make your catch-ups as personal as possible. Instead of sending multiple emails to your remote team, organise a face-to-face meeting using a platform like Zoom. Is it a friend or a colleague’s birthday? Instead of sending them a text or posting on their social media pages, give them a call. Better yet, arrange a video call and sing your heart out. Go on, I dare you!
Never underestimate the power of getting involved in your local community through not-for-profit sports, arts and crafts, yoga or general interest clubs. Think about the things you enjoy doing outside of work, then carve out some time to do them.
Looking for ways to brings your team together? Organise a fun activity like an afternoon of lawn bowls for all the families at a local club or a wine appreciation class.
When you get home, leave your device at the door and focus on being present with your family. Also put your phone away when you’re catching up with friends and colleagues as there is nothing worse than talking to someone only to have them distracted by texts and notifications. It impedes your ability to listen, understand and empathise. Let’s be honest, it’s just rude. I also recommend creating before you consume. For example, if you have a business task to complete like writing a blog, get it done before you tune into the news or digital world to maintain clarity and authenticity.
Most smartphones allow you to activate ‘do not disturb’ mode for a set time every day. You can also download apps that shut your phone down for a few hours. This is a great way to schedule in your downtime and avoid the temptation of glancing over at a screen that’s lighting up during dinner.
If you’re feeling isolated in your personal or business life, you should also look at joining my Facebook community or investing in some one-on-one coaching. My structured coaching program will help you better connect with others and yourself. I also have some immersive retreats coming up in 2021 which bring together like-minded people in an environment of authentic growth.
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