In a joint study between the Britsh Red Cross and Co-Op in 2016, it was identified that over 9 million people in the UK – almost a fifth of the population – say they are always or often lonely, but almost two thirds feel uncomfortable admitting to it.
Lonliness is an epidemic. And it’s not just older people. Childline reported that in the year 2016/17, they provided 4,063 counselling sessions about loneliness on their helpline.
This isn’t good news.
Research shows that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health: lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is worse for us than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity.
We are wired for human connection. Connection with others releases endorphins and makes our synapses grow. We cannot thrive on our own.
But how do we increase connection, especially when we are so busy?
For many of us work is an incredible demanding part of our lives. This is especially the case in education where demands on our physical, mental and emotional energy and can leave us with little left over for friends and family. But if we allow this to happen we create a vicious cycle of poor well being.
We have to reach out. We have to connect. It’s the very essence of being human. I wonder who you could connect with right now? A text will take you two minutes, a phone call five and if you can find an hour over the next few days, you could kick start a whole virtuous cycle of human connection.
We at Space to Breathe believe strongly in the power of connection. We know life can get busy and we know working in education is stressful. We believe however that there are ways to protect ourselves. Connecting with others intentionally, authentically is all part of that. We cannot survive and almost certainly won’t thrive unless we do. We owe it to ourselves and those we work with to make a meaningful connection with someone today. Go on, pick up the phone….