WellBeing

Rebuilding our lost connections

If you’re a typical Westerner in the 21st century, you probably feel lonely — occasionally, often or even most of the time. But, unlike with other afflictions, we’re not likely to confess our loneliness to others. However, loneliness hurts. Terribly. In the bestselling book, Lost Connections, hailed as a seminal book for our times, Johann Hari explains that acute loneliness makes your cortisol levels soar and cause as much stress as a punch from a stranger.

What is loneliness?

As well as painful, loneliness can be confusing, striking at unlikely times — such as when you’re around friends or family. That’s because feeling lonely and actual social isolation aren’t the same thing, explains Michelle Lim, a clinical psychologist of Swinburne University of Technology and scientific chair of the Australian Coalition to End Loneliness.

“With loneliness you feel subjectively alone and disconnected from others. You might be also embedded in strong social structures like school and work and family but you still feel lonely because you can’t get that connection. Even if you do have friends, it doesn’t mean they also cater to your social needs.”

Social isolation, on the other hand, is the experience of having little contact with others. While some may thrive on it, she says

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