I get a monthly acupuncture treatment as a “tune up” for my body. It is also a great way to decrease the effects of jet lag. After my last treatment, my therapist pulled up a chair and quietly said, “Can I ask you something personal?”
Of course I said yes while my body tensed up, gearing for the inquest.
“Are you lonely?” he asked.
“How could I be lonely?” I said and quickly ran off a list of all the people I connect with at least by phone on a somewhat regular schedule. He started to talk but I cut him off by reassuring him my primary relationship was just fine.
He set his hand on mine. “I didn’t ask you if you had people in your life.” I released the breath I had been holding. “I just sensed a loss of connection. Not just with people, but with the earth, with life, with whatever you sense is your life force.”
I hunched over, knowing exactly what he meant.
When I first started my business, I owned a 24-foot camper trailer that I took out every summer, exploring a different part of the Rockies and Pacific coast. This year, I am blessed with more than double the business than I had last year. So blessed that I haven’t had a chance to smell the caramel-scented bark of a Ponderosa pine, marvel at the perfect reflection of the sky on a glacier lake, and watch the sun go down as I lie hidden in a field of tall grass. I can sit at my desk and give my thanks for my life. It is not the same as feeling one with that life.
Loneliness can happen even when we have lots of social contacts. When we isolate ourselves from nature and natural beauty, we are dis connecting and detaching from the food of our hearts and souls.
Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago assessed levels of loneliness of 823 senior citizens over a 4-year period. They found that those who described themselves as feeling most lonely were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as the ones who described themselves as least lonely, REGARDLESS OF HOW SOCIALLY ISOLATED THEY WERE.
When people feel disconnected and separated, they are more susceptible to age-related declines in neural pathways. The researchers concluded that loneliness is not a reaction to dementia, but actually a cause of it.
So even if your life is full of people, if you do not take the time to reconnect with the earth, with your emotions of gratitude and love, with your sense of spirituality and your union with the divine, your loneliness can be physically as well as mentally damaging.
BRAIN TIP #1: Be outside. Whether the sound of water soothes your soul or the shade of a tree centers your spirit, find a place outdoors that helps you to feel calm and connected to the earth. The sights and sounds of nature remind us that we are a part of the life force working in all living things.
BRAIN TIP #2: Plant a flower. Some people find that doing simple chores gives them a sense of peace. The two women that do yard work in my neighborhood tell me that it is their meditation. I have also heard of people who use car washing and preparing meals as their time to reflect and connect.
BRAIN TIP #3: Sing and Dance. Whether you are releasing music from your soul or letting music flow through you as you move, connecting to music (not just listening to it) can align your body, mind, and spirit.
BRAIN TIP #4: Ask yourself these questions:
- Would it kill me to stop everything and give voice to my heart?
- Who am I if I didn’t define myself by how much I accomplished today?
- Would I become invisible to my colleagues and clients if I took a month off of work?
- Who is chasing you? Can you quit the race and accept that sometimes you are an ordinary person? If so, you might slow down enough to find “extraordinary” experiences outside of work (I’m not asking you to care less about your work; just care more about your mental and physical health).
You may not be alone, but do you feel empty? Summertime is the perfect time to feast your senses on life.