Overcoming Loneliness and Isolation in Morgan Hill

While everyone can benefit from some amount of alone time, a healthy and fulfilling life needs close interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, people today feel more isolated that ever. The average family unit is severely fractured, the divorce rate is at almost 50%, and more people live alone today than ever before in American history.

In many counseling practices, more than half of the clients who solicit therapy—no matter what their presenting problem (depression, addiction, anxiety, sexual issues)—are also presenting a severe lack of interpersonal relationships. In direct response to their loneliness, many feel cynical and depressed; they lack confidence, feel rejected, feel alienated, and feel inadequate to build meaningful relationships.

Why are the majority of clients—many who are young, attractive, intelligent, even well-to-do—profoundly disconnected from others?

Let’s begin by looking at why persons today are so isolated.

Our society is Primed for Isolation

It is easy, even in vogue, to blame society for our problems. And while I am going to go ahead and say that society is a major part of the loneliness problem, I would also like to remind everyone (including myself) that society is not some tyrannous robotic that operates our lives. Our society is each one of us. We are the society we blame.

So how is our society (meaning all of us) affecting the number of relationship-starved people in Morgan Hill? Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert points out that people today have to answer three major life-questions that their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents didn’t answer. Those questions are: 1) Where to live, 2) What to do, and, 3) Who to do it with.[i]

Less than a century ago most people were born, raised, lived, and died in one community. They did the job their parents did. They would build friendships in grade school and at church, and then keep those friends for the duration of their lives. They wed early, and had several children in their early 20s. Making new friends and families was not an issue. They lived and died surrounded by their kids and kin.

However, today it is the norm to leave one’s family and friends behind as we pursue our educational and vocational goals. First we leave for college, where we usually build new friendships. However, those don’t last either, because when undergrad ends we move again—a series of times in our 20s and 30s. Each time we travel alone, leaving old relationships behind (physically). We need to reconnect and establish new relationships at every juncture. All the while, we are more focused on our education or career than we are personal relationships, so the task of making friends is always at the bottom of the to-do-list. And nothing at the bottom of the to-do-list ever gets done.

The result: Many of us have no close friends, we are unmarried, and we live lives that feel (to our unfortunate surprise) empty and bleak.

Community is a Dirty Word

Community and Family are becoming foreign (even dirty) words. We place a low value on “community” because we don’t really understand what community is anymore. Many of us, when we think about community, envision a small town with cantankerous old couples walking down the street, sheriffs with big hats, corner stores that close at 6pm (and all day Sunday), and one-dimensional suburban nuclear families. This image of community has little that interests us, and even less to offer. It makes us feel all the more disconnected. Thankfully it is a lie.

Strategy One: Redefine Community.

Community is what you want it to be. Community means joining a kickball team. Community means being surrounded by friends who love you, who you respect, and who you want to share your life with. For many of us, an acceptable community looks more like “dorm life” than a Norman Rockwell painting. Community is having three friends who show up at your place at 8 in the morning, with coffee. Community is having those same friends knock on your door as 5pm on a Thursday to pull you away from the computer.

Strategy 2: Kill Your TV (It is mocking you)

Kill your TV. Move into a house with six close friends. You will miss two seasons of your favorite show and not even notice.

I am willing to bet that more than the lavish lifestyle, the beach, the adventure, or the interesting job, what draws us to the television is the close relationships between the characters. The TV mocks us, because we miss this truth all the time.  All we really want is to live in a big old house with six close friends.

Strategy 3: Things are the red herring.

The creator of the video game “The Sims” was once interviewed, and questioned about the materialism about the game. The items are a “Red Herring,” he explained. The way to win the game—to have a happy sim—is has nothing to do with the items. A happy sim has strong relationships with the other characters in the game.[ii]

The same mistake players of the Sims make we make in our real lives. We work 50-plus hour a week to buy things we think we want, or to live in lavish spaces we can hardly afford. All the while we would be happier sitting on milk crates with a group of close friends. A house full of nice things but without friends is vain.

Here is the secret to personal success: People, not stuff. Community.

Step 4: Explore people, not places

The idea of the lonely traveler seems romantic. But when you are that traveler, you don’t care so much about the museums after a few days. You watch people on the street. Friends laughing, and lovers holding hands. Soon you are on your cell phone, making oversees calls to connect to the people you thought you didn’t need.

Here is the secret to personal success: People, not places.

Strategy 5: Pay the Price

Every choice we make costs a price. The choice to build a support system is no different. It takes an investment of time and resources. You are going to need to put some margin into your schedule if you are going to be successful in building relationship. You might need to work as hard for relationships as you do at your career. Warning: this could slow your business, career, and even your money making potential. It can also increase your life satisfaction exponentially.So consider—what are relationships worth? How much money would it take for you to live a life of solitude.

Strategy 6: More confidence, more skills

This strategy could be a book.

One reason persons remain in solitude is that they have been alone for so long they begin to think that others will not understand them, others will reject them, or they think they are not able to build and maintain close relationships.

When it comes to building relationships— other people might feel as disconnected and worried as they do. If they say they are not “a person who can just go up to someone and talk to them,” Remember that there is no such thing as talent[iii] and that practice and experience is the only way to become “a person who can just go up to someone and talk to them.”

Strategy 7: Make sure they are in the inner circle

1)You must interact with the person outside of the venue in which you met them. For example, if you meet someone at the gym/coffee shop/a friend’s house, the person cannot be considered part of your inner circle unless you arrange to meet the person somewhere else.

2)You must have spent time with the person for the sole purpose of spending time together. Having friends who you play basketball with does not count as having “inner circle” friends—the focus is on having a good game of basketball, not on building relationship. “Have you gotten together with the person to just ‘hang out?’ Have you gone to get coffee or a meal with this person? Have you gotten together just to ‘Catch up?’”

3)You must meet with this person one-on-one, and be willing to share both the joys and hardships of life with the person. Does the person go to you with his/her triumphs and problems? Do you do go to him/her with your triumphs and problems? Do you trust the person to keep a confidence? Does he/she trust you to keep confidence?

The Isolation Epidemic is real. It is treatable, but only with significant lifestyle changes. For many, the cure is not easy, but it is always worthwhile.

Put more effort into interpersonal connections than you do anything else in your life. This is a radical idea, but it is an idea that can change your life for the better.


[i] See Gilbert, D. (2006). Stumbling on Happiness


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4 Ways to Boost Happiness in Morgan Hill this Year

Besides visiting Uvas Canyon County Park, taking a hike at Henry Coe, or having a nice glass of wine at Guglielmo Winery, what are some things that you can do everyday to increase happiness in your life in Morgan Hill? Although we’d love too, we can’t drink a glass of wine at Guglielmo everyday, or visit Andy’s Orchard.

Here are a few tips that can help you increase happiness everyday – Monday through Sunday. These are simples ideas that can help your overall well-being be happier.

1. Do something nice for someone new each day.

If you have roommates, do something nice for them. Make them dinner, clean up their disorganized mess. If you don’t have anyone around you, maybe offer to buy the gasoline for the person behind you in line at the Chevron Station in Morgan Hill. You will be amazed at how far a little niceness can go – for both you and them.

2. Record what went right. 

At the end of the day, it is easy to get down on yourself. But think hard – write down five to seven things that went well during the day. If you can’t think of anything, maybe 1. the fact that you are still breathing, 2. you can get a good nights sleep, and 3. you have hope for tomorrow is a good starting point.

3. Make a point to tell the people you are around that you are grateful for them. 

Take time to take a friend out to lunch and encourage them. There is so much negativity in the world, but if you could stop, and just tell someone how grateful you are, you have no idea the encouragement this could mean.

4. Set a Goal for this year

Do something adventurous this year. Let your imagination roar. You can do anything you want.

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