Friendship. Real Connectedness.

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Isolation. Loneliness.

Friendship

Friendship. Connect.

If you think back at some of the worst times in your life, you may realize that along with whatever problems you were having at the time, the worst part was the feeling of being isolated, of being alone with no support group to turn to. The feeling of isolation may very well be one of the worst things a person can experience.

We are learning today that isolation not only affects people emotionally, but physical symptoms are also part of the experience. In fact, numerous studies link long-term isolation and loneliness to disease.

BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal), one of the oldest medical journals in the world, recently released the findings of a study linking social isolation and loneliness to stroke and heart disease. The findings showed that social isolation increased the risk of stroke and heart disease by 30 percent.

They summed up their study saying:

“Our work suggests that addressing loneliness and social isolation may have an important role in the prevention of two of the leading causes of morbidity in high income countries.”

Social isolation and loneliness have also been linked to Alzheimer’s, cancer, and susceptibility to viral infections due to a weakened immune system. Studies have shown that the immune systems of people who are lonely and isolated seem to be in “fight or flight” mode, meaning an increase of white blood cells, which typically respond to physical wounds. Living in this fight or flight mode, as people who suffer from chronic loneliness do, increases the secretion of potentially harmful hormones such as cortisol, as well as increasing inflammation throughout the body.

Human Nature.

In an article posted on Fortune.com titled “Chronic Loneliness Is a Modern-Day Epidemic,” John Cacioppo, director of the University of Chicago’s Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience and author of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection (W. W. Norton & Co., 2009) describes human beings as tribal animals who need connection to others to fully thrive.

Asked why he believes loneliness is on the rise, he answered:

“We aren’t as closely bound. We no longer live in the same village for generations, which means we don’t have the same generational connections. That releases social constraints — relationships are formed and replaced more easily today. We have Tinder, Match, eHarmony and all these kinds of places you can dial up and find friendships, connections and opportunities that didn’t exist. In the last 15 years or so, many of those face-to-face connections have been replaced with social networking. We’ve found that if you use social networking as a way to promote face-to-face conversation, it lowers loneliness. But if you use a destination, as a replacement for the face-to-face, it increases loneliness.”

So what can be done about this unfortunate and rapidly growing phenomenon?

As is most often the case, we as individuals can’t save the world – but we can make a difference to those in our inner circle, our community. We can make it a point to keep strong, and even strengthen, our personal relationships. This means face-to-face time, not Facebook time. This means doing our best to stay in touch with our friends and family and having a sincere interest in what is happening in their lives. This is especially true concerning the older people in our lives, particularly if they are widowed.

Life can be difficult enough for many of us, but feeling isolated only makes it that much more harder. The science now confirms what many of us always knew in our gut – that isolation has profound affects on our minds and bodies. So why not give the gift of your company and attention to those in your life. Ask that new coworker who seems shy and disconnected to join you for lunch. Set up a play date with your kid and his classmate who seems to have no friends. And don’t allow technology to become a substitute for real connectedness.

Friendship. Courage. Friends on a Rock.

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Friendship. Courage.  Friends on a Rock.

Friendship. Courage.

Friendship. Courage.

Quite often life’s pleasures and great moments sprout from the little things, the things that may seem insignificant at the time.

A few weeks ago on CBS Sunday Morning, I saw a story on the news about three second grade students from Kittredge Elementary in North Andover, Massachusetts. These students created a long-lasting friendship from something as simple as a little rock sticking out of the ground in their schools playground.

Celia DiSalvo, Kyra Brown, and Alex Gamble were second graders when they began their quest to dig up this “little rock” using sticks and plastic utensils from the cafeteria. What seemed like a quick and easy task turned into a mission that lasted the course of 4 school years. Each day at recess, the three friends painstakingly dug around this rock in their mission to unearth it.

As it turns out, the little rock wasn’t so little at all, but rather a big boulder. Having followed the students unwavering quest, the school decided to bring in heavy equipment to finally bring the rock to the surface before the three friends left for middle school. Now, seven years later, the rock sits in the school’s playground, a symbol of perseverance and friendship.

As it turns out, this simple “little rock” has turned into a meeting place for the students of Kittredge Elementary. Students meet at the rock and form friendships. Some students say that the rock has become a sanctuary where students who are bullied or have few friends go to, and inevitably, find comfort and friendship. The three students who started the digging ten years ago have become school legends.

It’s the Simple Things that matter.

As is very often the case if we really take time to notice, great things often grow out of simple little things. One little good deed, act of kindness or generosity, or even a kind word can sometimes alter the direction of a person’s life – change their life!  Meeting friends on a rock.

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover.

Another lesson this story can teach us is that it is never wise to judge something simply by what you can see from the outside – this goes for people as well as potential opportunities. What’s important is what lies beneath the surface, the unseen potential.

All of this from something as simple as a little rock sticking out of the ground? You bet!

Feel free to join my conversation on FacebookFacebook Esteemableacts Fan Page, or my Facebook Law Page, you can also interact with me on my Twitter Esteemable Acts pageTwitter Law Page, or on LinkedIn.

 

Friendship

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Friendships. Valentine's Day.

Friendship. Valentine’s Day.

In many countries throughout the world, Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate loved ones and appreciate our friends. So let’s delve into what it means to be a true friend, how one can find friends, and what gets in the way of lasting friendships.

What does ‘friendship’ mean?

It’s a voluntary connection, a bond between two or more people that transcends race, religion, gender, or political persuasion. It’s a relationship, where we know we can count on someone to be there for us—no matter what. It’s unconditional love. Friendship is trusting someone enough to reveal a side of ourselves that we often keep secret. Friendship is knowing that someone we trust, will deliver on their promise. It’s the offering of whatever we have to give, to make our friend’s road just a little easier e.g., an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, a sofa to crash on, money if needed, our heart, or simply our attention. And like all gifts, if we don’t take care of it, it will be taken away.

How do we acquire friends?

My mentor, Louise Robertson, told me years ago that if I wanted to have friends, I had to be a friend. During the early years of my life, I made bad choices and had little regard for the possessions of others. Without exception, that included other women’s husbands and boyfriends. One day Louise sat me down and said, “Francine, honey, as long as you find it necessary to sleep with other women’s husbands, you won’t have any girlfriends.” What a novel concept. Yet, the truth is, at that time in my life I didn’t think I needed women and I didn’t even like them. I’ve grown up quite a bit. Today I know the value and ultimate utility of having girlfriends that I love and respect, and that love and respect me.

Where do we find friends?

Everywhere we are there is a potential for finding friends. In the hallway in our apartment building, at work, on the elevator, the gym, the opera, in church, at a community meeting, at the PTA—wherever we are, they are. When we show up, there are innumerable opportunities to make friends.

What gets in the way of friendship?

Hurt feelings, egos, family, other friends, work, other commitments, distance and changing values and goals. And some relationships, “seemingly” through nobody’s fault, just fade away. However, I believe that no relationship just dies. Like anything else, where we place our attention is what gets fed, and thus grows. If a relationship reaches its expiration, it’s usually due to lack of attention.

During this month, I invite you to identify two people who are currently out of your life, but who were at one time important. What happened? Use this time to reflect on times past when there was love between you. Even though much time may have passed, if appropriate, I invite you to make a call, send an e-mail, or write a note saying, “Hi, it has been a long time. I’m just thinking about you.”

What are your thoughts? Join my conversation at Attorney Francine Ward; Esteemable Acts Twitter Page, Esteemable Acts Facebook Page, Google+, LInkedIn.