Feeling Lonely? You're Not Alone! 

by Corinna Bowers

Are Americans becoming more socially isolated? 

A recent nationwide survey on Americans' social connections indicates that most Americans report only having two close friends. And the number of people who stated that they have no one to talk with about important issues is 1 in 4. 

That number has doubled since the last study 20 years ago. And the people we do confide in are more likely to be members of our nuclear family.* 

How do these findings resonate with you? You are certainly not alone if you find yourself with few confidants and trusted friends. But how does it impact your life? Do you have fewer people to call on in an emergency? Would you like to have more friends? 

If you're like many Americans, you're working so many hours a week that maintaining a social life is nearly impossible. 

Workers in this country are working more hours than almost every other developed nation, even Japan. It's hard to get together with old friends, let alone meet the neighbors who moved in next door, when you and your spouse are exhausted after working a 60-80 hour work week. 

Americans are also spending more time in front of their televisions, computers, and video screens than ever before. What used to be time spent socializing 20 years ago now is time spent enjoying electronic entertainment. 

These are isolating activities that keep people separated from each other, even if they are together in the same room. 

Open communication and physical time together are key to establishing closer social connections. Even if you email or IM your chat room buddies several times a day, there is a missing component to the relationship if you have never physically been in each other's company. 

The human brain has not yet evolved to feel fully comfortable establishing healthy and trusting relationships through electronic communication alone! 

So make the effort (as uncomfortable as it may be) to meet your neighbors and introduce yourself to the parents of your children's friends. Investigate which community group you would like to join, and then do it! Reach out to your co-workers, your fellow gym rats, and your classmates. 

Seek out those with whom you have interests and values in common. This is how you can decrease your social isolation and improve your connections with others. 

We are social beings. We operate best when we feel cared for, trusted, and valued by those around us who we care for, trust, and value in return. It is essential for good emotional and social health to have a circle of trusted confidants and friends. Who will you reach out to next?

*These findings were reported in the June issue of the American Sociological Review. (Click here to read the full study: http://www.asanet.org/galleries/default-file/June06ASRFeature.pdf

Corinna Bowers is a personal life coach who specializes in helping people move their lives forward with a purpose! Learn more about communication challenges, self care, moms' issues, and other common life topics most people face on her website, www.focused-momentum-lifecoach.com.