Taking a Look At the Loneliness Epidemic

Loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Health Resources and Services Administration

Two in five Americans report that they sometimes or always feel their social relationships are not meaningful, and one in five say they feel lonely or socially isolated. Twenty-eight percent of older adults now live by themselves. “The lack of connection can have life threatening consequences,” reports Brigham Young University professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad.

Studies have shown that poor social relationships were associated with a 29 percent increase in the risk of coronary heart disease and a 32 percent rise in the risk of stroke among other serious diseases.

The good news is that friendships reduce the risk of mortality or developing certain diseases and can speed recovery in those who fall ill. Simply reaching out to lonely people can jump-start the process of getting them to engage with neighbors and peers.

Affirmation: I am a friend.

Coaching questions: Are you lonely? What step can you take to counteract your isolation? Do you know someone who is isolated or lonely? What difference might it make if you visited or called a lonely person today? 

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Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

What Does Friendship Mean to You?

Of all the things which wisdom provides to make life entirely happy, much the greatest is the possession of friendship. Epicurus, Philosopher

I’m very fortunate to have good friends. I just returned from spending a fantastic, long weekend on Block Island, Rhode Island with two college girlfriends. Being an only child, friends are sisters to me and I cherish them. Interpreting Epicurus, I believe a wise woman seeks friends with whom she can be herself, women (and men) who share her joys and sorrows, who help her become a better person, who make her heart sing. 

Friends take time, energy, and cultivation (just like a beautiful garden) but, believe me, friends will enhance your life for the rest of your life.

Affirmation: I seek out and cultivate friends.

Coaching questions and request: What does friendship mean to you? If you feel you’re lacking good friends, what steps can you take to attract friends to your life? Tell a friend how much they mean to you. 

fullsizeoutput_fbc.jpegFriends for fifty-six years

Four Truths From Toy Story 4

A person who seeks an enlightened existence must awaken to realize universal truths. Kilroy Oldster, author

Yesterday I took “my little girl,” Katie, and her three children to see the new movie, Toy Story 4. We all loved it! Here’s what I came away with: 

  1. We all need to learn resilience. When Woody’s child (the child to whom Woody, a toy, belongs) grows up, Woody is demoted in the playroom and loses his “favorite toy” status. As he clings to his old role, he must learn the hard lesson that life is ever-changing.
  2. Happiness can be found down a variety of paths. Woody believes that belonging to a child is the only path to happiness. Like a parent who experiences an empty nest, he has to come to terms with another way of life and realizes that, this too, can be fulfilling. 
  3. True friendship is worth the trouble. Woody places a high value on friendship and goes to great lengths to protect his friends— even when doing so makes his life difficult or uncomfortable. 
  4. Forgiveness is key to a happy life. As Woody and his friends forgive Chatty Cathy’s selfish, and sometimes sinister, behavior, they experience the peace that comes with forgiveness. 

Affirmation: Life’s lessons are universal.

Coaching questions: What have you learned lately from an unconventional source? What do people learn by watching you live your life? 

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Friends Matter More Than You May Know

Each member knows that her friends count on her as much as she counts on her friends. Klazuko Manna, Moai group member, excerpted from Blue Zones newsletter

The Blue Zone project on longevity has proven that elders in Okinawa, Japan live extraordinarily better and longer lives than almost anyone else in the world. Moai, one of their longevity traditions, are social support groups they start in childhood and continue throughout their life. Sometimes these groups last for nearly 100 years!

As a motherless daughter and only child, girlfriends have always been especially important to me. This continues to be true as I age. I recently spent time with a group of friends I only see about twice a year. As we gather, it feels as if we were never apart. Our love and caring for each other continues across time and distance. 

Affirmation: I have friends who care about me.

Coaching questions: Do you have friends you can count on? If not, consider why that might be true. If friends are important to you, what are you willing to do to keep your friendship alive and well?

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These two women (ages 90 and 91 in this photo) have shared the gift of friendship for over eighty years.

Mourning an Old Friend

True friends are the ones who never leave your heart, even if they leave your life for a while. Even after years apart, you pick up with them right where you left off, and even if they die they’re never dead in your heart. Unknown

Last week a dear friend of mine died. She was young, in her early 70’s (I consider anyone who is younger than me young). She had been ill for a long time so perhaps she was ready to “move on.” As friends, we shared experiences of guilt and redemption, laughter and tears. We had a honest, down-to-earth relationship. When we regularly met for lunch during our working-girl years, we always ordered the same thing. We didn’t want to waste our talk-time on looking at the menu. 

As I grieve her death, I’m reminding myself what I’ve written in my book and counseled others. I’m making an effort to focus on Ginger rather than myself. I’m remembering what she meant to me and others who loved her. I’m celebrating her freedom from pain and illness. I’m sad but grateful. Loved you, Ginger!

Affirmation: I celebrate life and friendship.

Coaching questions: How do you grieve the loss of a friend? What helps you honor your sadness while embracing gratitude? 

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Photo by Joseph Pearson on Unsplash

What Do Friends Mean to You?

When the world is so complicated, the simple gift of friendship is within all of our hands. Maria Shriver, journalist

One of my best friends recently gave me the gift of the little handmade purse pictured here. She crafted it out of a piece of decorative paper. It fastens with a tiny piece of velcro. It’s so precious to me, mostly because it is a sign of our friendship. 

In my life experience, friends have been especially precious. Growing up with no mother or siblings heightened my dependence on, and desire for, special friends in my life. I’ve found that it’s not about the amount of friends I have but the quality of the friendship. There was a period in my life when I had no best friend. I felt lost. Now, I’m blessed with several. Some close-by, some in other states. They are my sisters by a different mother and my treasure. 

Affirmation: I will be the best friend I can be.

Coaching question: What do friendships mean to you? How do you find, nurture, and keep friends in your life? If you’re short on special friendships, what step will you take to find a good friend? 

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Connecting Heart to Heart Worldwide

It may be long before the law of love will be recognized in international affairs. The machineries of government stand between and hide the hearts of one people from those of another. Gandhi

I want to give a shout out to my international blog readers and followers. Just this month I’ve had visitors from Ireland, South Africa, Canada, Costa Rica, United Kingdom, Germany, India, Finland, and Slovenia, to name a few. This international readership motivates me to write in a universal language with topics of interest to readers from different cultures, governments, faiths. 

Thank you, my international friends, for your interest in what this seventy-three-year-old grandma in southwest Florida, USA has to say. I pray that this experience is a microcosm of what the world can be for all. With our governments pushed aside, we can continue to open our hearts to one another. 

Affirmation: I embrace the world.

Coaching questions: What keeps you connected to the larger world? What difference does it make? 

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