According to a 2009 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, “Health risks associated with social isolation have been compared in magnitude to the well-known dangers of smoking cigarettes and obesity." Social isolation can also lead to depression and can magnify feelings of helplessness and unworthiness.
Being alone and being lonely are not the same. Being alone can be rejuvenating, spiritual, and even necessary for our health. You can be alone and feel a deep sense of connected-ness to yourself and the world. Loneliness however, is a deep sense of something missing, a profound disconnection, or not feeling relevant. Loneliness robs a person of feeling true joy or a deep sense of belonging in the world.
+ Teens can be particularly vulnerable to loneliness +
While there are of course many contributing factors to consider, increasing use and over dependence on social media can be problematic in terms of connection and self-worth. While social media has its good qualities, for many teens, social acceptance and self-esteem can become so strongly tied to "likes" and "comments" that it replaces true social connection and support. Getting 100's of people to "like" a photo may bring initial excitement, but deep inside teens know many of the people may not really know or genuinely care about them.
+ Being alone versus being lonely +
With so many distractions and constant connection to devices and social media, many of us have forgotten what it feels like to be truly centered and connected to ourselves. We may wander through each day, bouncing from task to task until we no longer feel satisfied or enlivened by anything. We may even be surrounded by people constantly while still feeling disconnected. We may avoid ourselves by numbing out with TV, eating, or even drinking or drugs. The busyness has crept in and robbed us of feeling joy when we are simply in our own presence.
+Antidotes to loneliness +
Connection to self. Let’s start with connection to self. To highlight the difference between the richness of being alone and being lonely, please take a moment to watch this amazing video:
The poet highlights the task of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-exploration as a way to combat feeling lonely when we are alone. It is a wonderful thing to give yourself permission to be alone, to take yourself out on dates, to practice an art form, and to learn what really makes you happy. Self-love is the foundation for any true connection with others, for we can only give from a full cup. As parent, we must practice this ourselves while also encouraging our children to do the same.
Connection to creativity. Making time to be creative puts us in contact with the Source. This connection to raw, creative energy is enlivening, refreshing, and provides a feeling of connected-ness with oneself. Through the act of creation we come closer to ourselves and can explore the inner landscape while at the same time using the art we’ve created to share our story. This “going in” and “coming out” through creative expression further develops the the feeling of interconnected-ness we all need as humans.
Connection to others. While practicing self-love and enjoying our own company is critical to ward off loneliness, so is actual connection with others. To understand the difference between connection and contact refer to my previous post here. We all need positive social engagement. We all need to feel seen, heard, and understood. We all need each other. For teens it is critical to provide opportunities for connection beyond school and social media. Groups that provided positive social engagement and ongoing support can prove invaluable during the teen years. Whether volunteering with an organization your teen is passionate about or getting involved in an actual support group like Truly Connected Teen Art Therapy Group, being part of a group will allow your teen to learn how to be deeply connected to themselves, their creativity, and their peers.
P.S. Want a cool tool to help your teen BUST loneliness? Enter your information and get my favorite Love Yourself First tip sheet.
P.P.S. Ready to help your teen feel true connection and acceptance? Learn more about Teen Art Therapy Group here!