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Journey to Wholeness

Building a Culture of Connection

By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.


Over the last decade, there is an increasing concern about the ‘loneliness epidemic.’ I

have seen more articles, news reports, and warnings of mental health concerns, attributed to so many people’s sense of loneliness. If you are asking yourself if you feel left out, not understood, not having anyone to share with, or isolated, you are alone. Across the age spectrum, studies tell us, there is increasingly more reported feelings of loneliness.


Let’s look at how this affects us. A 2012 study of 1,600 people tells us that loneliness predicts a sixty percent risk of functional decline, and a forty-five percent increased risk of death. We also have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke and dementia for older adults.


One big factor that has profoundly influenced how we interact and talk with each other is technology. Today we are spending far less time with each other than we did two decades ago. People change jobs more frequently, more people are living alone, fewer than fifty percent are married, and, since COVID, many jobs are remote. More than one-fifth of Americans over 18 say they are often or always feeling alone or socially isolated.


Neuroscientists, John and Stephanie Cacioppo, have been studying this for decades. Sadly, in 2018, John died from cancer at age sixty-six, leaving Stephanie, the love of his life, to deal with his loss. This brought her face to face with her own deep and crushing loneliness. She did reach out to friends, began running six miles a day, and picked up double’s tennis. She writes about the journey in her memoir, “Wired For Love.” We do know our brains are wired for connection. Let’s think about how we can face this as Dr. Stephanie Cacioppo is doing and help others to do the same.


Strengthening social infrastructures like parks, libraries, and public programs is helpful. I read about one park having a friendship bench. If you want to connect, sit on this bench. Public libraries on both sides of the State Line offer many programs for all age levels. I enjoyed the Writer’s Conference at the Johnson County Resource Library last November. I was nervous about attending but took the plunge. I renewed some friendships and made some new connections. I have encouraged others to participate in the many activities offered. The local Community Centers also offer many programs for different ages.


A big factor for all of us is how we use technology. It can be a way to connect positively or a way to feel more left out and distant. One group of young people reported using the Find My Friends App with mutual consent, made them feel more connected. One person stated. “It is a way to express tenderness and intimacy between close friends.” They reported it made them feel safer and closer to their friends. Technology can help us keep in touch, make dates to see people, or visit with apps like FaceTime, especially with friends who live at a distance. I have a very good friend who lives near Albany, NY. We talk via FaceTime on a regular basis, and it keeps our friendship fresh and alive. Think about the ways you can use technology to serve you in your quest to feel less lonely and more connected.


Since loneliness is manifested in the brain, it can be healed there as well. Dr.Cacioppo is promoting the acronym, GRACE, which stands for ‘gratitude, reciprocity, altruism, choice, and enjoyment.’ If we can remember to start each day with gratitude, we will always feel better. In terms of reciprocity, I have decided to reach out more and respond better to people reaching out. I try to wave to neighbors or wave back as I am walking. I say hello if I can and chat briefly with them if they are open to it. I am doing the same in my office building, and other places as well. The results have been good as people seem to like to be noticed and spoken with briefly. I feel better as well.


We know doing for others, the altruism piece, almost always makes us feel better. Choice is the hardest one. Thinking consciously about our choices each moment, each day can be difficult. It yields great results. Enjoyment is one thing each of us likes to experience. Try some of these things an feel less lonely while helping others to do the same. Good wishes in your personal development of the culture of connection!

Jude LaClaire, Ph. D., LCPC is a counselor and educator at the Heartland Holistic Health Center. She is the author of the “Life Weaving Education Curriculum” that teaches creative, effective, holistic problem solving. For counseling appointments, seminars, in-service training or speaker’s bureau, call 816-509-9277 or;

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