Loneliness is killing us.

Social connection has healing effects

In 2023, the surgeon general declared loneliness and isolation an epidemic in America. Feelings of loneliness and isolation increase our risk for physical and mental health diagnoses. From 2003 to 2020 social isolation has increased by 24 hours per month. The significant jump occurred in 2018. Household family engagement has gone down by 5 hours per month. Companionship has decreased by 14 hours per month. Diminished social connection increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The report goes on to outline the impact of this on individuals, relationships, communities and our society. One recommendation that sings out to me is the 6th pillar in the Pillars to Advance Social Connection.

A culture of connection

Build a culture of connection. This is an environment in which we cultivate kindness, respect, service, and commitment to each other. The space between us is the playground of connection. I remember the playgrounds of my childhood well. I loved playing four square, jumping rope, and loving kickball with my friends. To this day I adore swinging as high as I can and pretending I can fly. I remember field days and sports. My childhood playgrounds are well populated. I was never alone there, even when I was the new kid on the block.

Kindness is free

What does it cost us to be kind? The smallest gesture of niceness offered freely has the capacity to transform the other person’s day. It is not surprising that giving is as good for the giver as it is for the receiver. We both get a hit of dopamine and serotonin when this happens. When ever you have offered an anonymous random act of kindness, how did it feel? Just for kicks, what if you committed to doing this once a day for a week? What do you imagine would happen? What impact would it have on you? What would be the impact on your “world?”

“No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.”

― Amelia Earhart

Impact and Intention

Bringing this practice to your home adds an even greater opportunity for impact. If your intention is to freely offer your partner an act of kindness daily, what do you imagine your impact will be? I imagine you would have to look for things that would be appreciated by the other person. You would attuned to their wants or needs. You may find yourself thinking from their perspective, wanting to give something desirable. You may have to give up something in order to give freely. Acting from your bounty, you give from your abundance of patience, time, tenderness. Are you willing to make an investment in connection one relationship at a time?

I regard you highly

How would you act if you were intentional about respect as you walk through the world? What does respect mean in your most intimate relationships? Are you perceived in the realm of respect? Do you look at your partner through a lens of respect? Webster’s dictionary defines respect as: an act of giving particular attention; consideration and a high or special regard; esteem. I often hear couples speak of being disrespected by their partner. When we are not esteemed-regarded highly, our connection is polluted. Some of us rail against this and others withdraw. It is worth noting when this happens. The culture of connection demands that we offer respect and we act respectfully. When was the last time that you failed to regard your beloved with esteem? What happened next? A failure to simply regard the other is enough to erode the space between us.

Service is priceless

Service is a old fashion sounding concept, but a tried and true one. Doing service is a great way to level the playing field. Things get done because someone does them. There are an uncountable number of unseen, unsung things that get done in our home, that I did not do. I am immensley grateful that I never think about taking the trash cans to the curb on Sunday night so that they can be emptied on Monday morning. On Monday morning when I hear them being emptied, I send a silent message of gratitude to my partner who remembers to do it, who does it consistently and who never complains about doing it. His act of service is quiet and priceless.


Commitment to the unenforceable is another way that we can grow our social engagement. These are not laws. They are not binding. But the kinds of things we do to make things run smoothly make a difference. The ways we turn towards each other with curiosity, especially when we notice we are irritable or discontent, makes the difference between bickering and being connected. The practice of turning towards others has the power to transform us, our relationships, our communities and our society. Are you willing to be the one to begin?

Not Do or Do

Loneliness and isolation is slowly killing people and eroding the most fundamental thing that makes us human. We are wired to be connected to one another. And when we withdraw, isolate, fail to ask for help, refuse to offer aid, we get better at being alone. Practice leaning in, become an expert at asking for what you need. Be the one to volunteer. See yourself through this lens and watch your life, your relationships, your community blossom. Be the change you want to see.

If you are feeling lonely or alone and are longing for greater connection contact Hayley regarding a new co-ed process group forming at the Imago Center.