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  • Writer's pictureDave Caperton

Loneliness is Epidemic

It’s Valentine’s Day. The best day of the year to be in love or the restaurant, flower or candy business. It’s also the worst day to be alone because you get reminded all day that you are. If you’re feeling alone this Valentine’s Day maybe you can take some solace in knowing that you’re not, well, alone.

The 2020 Cigna Loneliness Index just released reveals that 61% of people in America feel lonely—a significantly higher percentage from just two years before when the total was 46%. And it doesn’t just affect social lives. It’s having a major impact on work. Here are a few revelations:

· Younger people (18-22) are lonelier than older people (72+)

· Urban and suburban dwellers are lonelier than people who live in rural communities

· Heavy social media users are significantly more likely to feel alone, left out and isolated

Implications for the business community included these findings:

Lonely workers say they are less engaged, less productive and report lower retention rates They are twice as likely to miss a day of work due to illness and five times more likely to miss work due to stress 12% of lonely workers say they believe their work is lower quality than it should be Lonely workers say they think about quitting their job more than twice as often as non-lonely workers

Loneliness is epidemic and getting worse and the result is high levels of disengagement and low levels of trust in organizations where people feel no real connection to each other.

As a Valentine’s Day gift to you, here are four simple choices for today (or any day) that can help you make a connection to the people you work with and live among. None of them are difficult and unlike flowers, candy and dinner out these are fragrance-free, sugar-free and don’t require reservations:

Find some common ground. In this polarized and divided culture, it’s tempting to focus on the differences that divide us but that’s a one-dimensional view. Find someone you think is different from you and intentionally look beyond their identity to see their humanity. Even the guy with the Bernie button and the woman with the MAGA bumper sticker probably have kids and parents and dogs they love and teams they both root for. Get beyond how you vote to what you both value.

Voice your appreciation.Sixty-five percent of workers in one survey said that they had not been thanked on the job one time in 12 months yet a desire for recognition is often the number one wish that employees share. You can change that statistic single-handedly. Expressing gratitude is one of the best ways you can build connections and trust.

Do a small kindness.Kindness disrupts loneliness and feelings of isolation by getting you out of your self-focused “me-niverse” and adding some value to others. It immediately boosts your own sense of self-esteem and happiness.

Share a laugh.The late great Dane, Victor Borge, once said that the shortest distance between two people is laughter. When we laugh together, we share a positive emotional experience. When it’s compassionate and inclusive it’s one of the best (and most fun) ways to make a connection. It also is a great way to disrupt stress and create a perception of some control over something otherwise beyond your control (like, maybe being alone on Valentine’s Day).

Big change comes from a lot of people doing little things. On this day that celebrates love and connection is as good a time as any for you to be the change you’d like to see and make the world a little less lonely just because you’re in it.

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