Everyone gets lonely. Positively everyone.
You can be in a houseful of family and still grow up lonely.
You can be a mom who never gets privacy and still feel lonely.
“The purpose of loneliness is like the purpose of hunger. Hunger takes care of your physical body. Loneliness takes care of your social body, which you also need to survive and prosper.”
Loneliness brings us to the point of discomfort so we will change our circumstances to take care of our social body. Cacioppo also states that the best remedy is to “do volunteer service in something that you enjoy.“
He has developed the acronym EASE—ease your way back into social connections. Here is my simplification of his cleverness:
- Extend yourself safely. Do a little bit at a time.
- Action plan. Not everyone will connect with you, but that’s not a judgment of you. Your action plan will help you escape and accept. A could also be for Ask others about themselves, get them talking about their interests.
- Seek collectives. People who have similar interests, activities, values. That makes it easier to find a synergy.
- Expect the best. Try to counteract the natural hyper-vigilance for social threat that is normal when you feel lonely.
When I moved from California to Michigan in the Winter of 2001, I was lonely! And cold! When they recruited me to serve as a mentor at MOPS at my new church, they said: “Try it! If it isn’t a good fit, we can try something else.”
I admit, my first thought when they asked was: “Well, this is lame!”
But my next thought was in King James English:
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto [wo]men…” Colossians 3:23
That means I memorized it when I was a kid in Sunday School! The loose translation is ‘Serve with your whole heart, like you are serving God, not just women.’
For me, that appointment as a mentor was a game changer. All of a sudden, I was in a room full of moms, serving with my whole heart, like I was serving God, not women. And these women were grateful.
I was not lonely anymore, but having experienced it, I could spot a lonely mom across the room! And I was like a heat-seeking missile, going in for the landing and pulling them in!
They confided their mom problems to me. Because I listened.
In a room full of women, there were personality conflicts that needed tender guidance to bring understanding. I was their Sherpa.
When sickness or disability happened in their family, I was their prayer warrior.
And the more I did this mentoring thing, the less lonely I was. And the more sacred what I was doing became.
I built lifelong friendships there and made connections with moms who are now forever friends. Magically, divinely, my life was changed by them! I became a better mom, stepmom, mother-in-law and grandma because I mentored women who mentored me back.
Perhaps you have felt lonely too. As your kids get older and more independent, you may feel lonelier still. You may have a reservoir of love and only a few hours of time.
You need to EASE into connection, but where will you serve?
Could you volunteer to mentor? It just takes a few hours twice a month. You could EASE into service, then serve with your whole heart….and kick your loneliness to the curb!