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all humans experience loneliness
Loneliness and our need for social connection is part of the human condition. Everyone experiences loneliness from time to time. No job title, no salary level, no address, no education qualification nor perceived status provides immunity to loneliness.
Saying that we don’t experience loneliness is akin to saying that we don’t ever get thirsty or feel hungry.
connection is the antidote to loneliness
It’s fantastic to see that there’s more and more research coming out that shows how widespread the thoughts and feelings of loneliness are in sectors of our societies globally. Information gives us awareness and with awareness comes choice.
For all this research, we already know what cures loneliness: human connection.
HUMANS:CONNECTING is here to help interpret the data being shared into something that speaks to where loneliness and our need for connection is felt: in the individual human.
making loneliness our ally
As hunger tells us we need to eat and thirst tells us that we need to drink, so loneliness tells us that we need to connect.
The loneliness we feel as humans contains the key to the connection we are missing in that moment.
We at HUMANS:CONNECTING are here to help humans sit and listen to their loneliness and then support them to move forward to get the connection they need whenever they experience loneliness in the future.
feeling lonely now? choose connection
I have a simple recommendation to move through loneliness quickly: choose connection.
Spend a few moments noticing the people in your day: saying hello to the bus driver, smiling and saying hello to people you encounter while walking. It all helps.
I always recommend choosing the checkout line at the supermarket that’s staffed by a human. It may be slower, but sometimes those few moments of incidental human interaction with other shoppers in line and with the checkout attendant can give you and all involved a needed connection boost.
It will feel weird and awkward, but the connection we need is on the other side of that discomfort.
loneliness is not a mental health issue
Loneliness is a precipitant condition for anxiety, depression, substance abuse, Alzhiemers and other mental health conditions when left untended and unaddressed. However, loneliness and our need for connection is itself not a mental health problem, it is a social health problem.
I'm concerned that loneliness is framed in the media and in public policy discussions as a mental health issue. I know this is unintentional. However, the framing of loneliness as a mental health issue signals that humans experiencing loneliness are somehow ill and need intervention only through the mental health system.
While this frame of reference may provide a useful lens to help understanding and promote awareness of loneliness, framing loneliness as a mental health problem feeds the stigma of loneliness.
It's akin to saying that someone who feels hungry needs medical attention when they simply need food.
A human experiencing loneliness needs connection. That connection comes from authentic connection to themselves, to those most import to them and to their communities.
Of course, there may be barriers to social connection that require specialised intervention and support, but this does not apply to everyone.
the stigma of loneliness
Loneliness has a stigma. The stigma is nonsensical, because every human experiences loneliness at times throughout life.
The stigma breeds silence. That silence feeds our loneliness, because when we inevitably experience loneliness we don’t know how to talk about what we’re experiencing and we don’t know who we can talk to who would understand and listen to us.
Like all stigmas, the stigma of loneliness will drop away when we speak openly about it and share our stories – and receive others’ stories – with compassion and empathy.
respecting and honouring lived experience
I'm a global loneliness thought leader and expert in loneliness and human connection. I speak extensively about my own lived experience of loneliness. Indeed, my loneliness and the poor way society responds to loneliness is the reason why I started this work in 2018.
All humans have a lived experience of loneliness. It takes great courage for me and others to publicly speak about a personal experience of loneliness in a way that resonates with others.
Judgement and leaping to fix the human’s loneliness is easy to say and do. Respecting and honouring our experience and meeting it with empathy and compassion creates environments that empower others to sit with their loneliness and learn from it.
solving the loneliness epidemic
The key to solving the loneliness epidemic is in addressing loneliness and the absence of meaningful human connection well before it reaches a human’s crisis point.
Loneliness and our need for social connection needs to be normalised and addressed openly, honestly and empathetically.
We need to be intentional in how spaces and systems are designed, so the humans within them feel connected and thrive - not that their social wellbeing is an afterthought.
Connection is the antidote to loneliness. Humans feel connected with they feel seen and when they feel heard. Helping other humans feel connected does not require a specialised tertiary qualification, crisis counselling or expensive government intervention.
Phil McAuliffe (he/him) is a Dad, a partner, a son, an uncle, a cousin, a friend and a plane nerd. He loves to have real conversations over a good coffee.
Phil’s a white, cis-gendered gay man. He learned first-hand that we know how to support people who come out of the closet more than we know how to support people who admit their loneliness.
Phil realised that he was lonely as he entered middle-age. He had a loving family and a prestigious job surrounded by privilege. It didn't make him immune to loneliness.
Phil initially found it tough to find information and support for the loneliness he was feeling. He got help and he got curious about loneliness. He's created spaces for other humans to engage on the topic without loneliness' stigma.
Phil starts and leads conversations that de-stigmatise loneliness and promote authentic connection - the kind of connection that every human needs and deserves. He leads these conversations in the media, at conferences and workplaces.
Through his work, Phil supports other humans who experience loneliness and to let them know that they're not alone.
Phil's here to connect and to help others connect.
exclusive photos available on request
our work in the media
British Broadcasting Corporation
BBC World Service
The Forum - podcast
Phil shared some of his loneliness story of when he worked in diplomacy and why all humans need connection during 'Diplomacy' on the BBC World Services' The Forum program.
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