The New Pandemic

As we slowly emerge from the COVID 19 pandemic, there is cautious optimism, as we are seeing a resurgence of this in various parts of the world. However, I want to discuss another pandemic that has always been there but has become more apparent through the last 18 months. This is the pandemic of loneliness. Loneliness is an experience in which our current relationships don’t meet our emotional and social needs.

Loneliness is a serious problem in the world today and the pandemic has brought this issue to light through lockdowns, quarantines and stay-at-home orders. Through the pandemic, the people, who would normally have the usual social outlets through school, work or other social activities, have lost these and now, more than ever, people are suffering with loneliness.

This is not a new problem, as I believe that it has been ongoing for several decades. There are many reasons for this including the internet and social media, which allows us to do a lot of the things we used to do through effort and in person. We no longer need to leave our dwellings to purchase almost anything that we may need from groceries to cars. Social media has given us a false sense of belonging and socialization, as there is very little depth to our social media interactions.

In modern society, people are also very busy in their lives and scarcely have time to eat their next meal, let alone, spend quality time with another human being in deep and meaningful interaction and conversation. This is why I believe podcasts have become so popular because they provide a venue through which to observe a deep and meaningful conversation between two individuals. The problem is that they are not a substitute for our own personal interactions with people in our own lives.

The issue is, then, how do we go about dealing with loneliness in our lives? The first step is to recognize that it is there. If you feel that your current relationships don’t meet your emotional and social needs then you are dealing with loneliness. Accept this fact and don’t try to cover it up with small talk, meaningless conversations with co-workers to just fill time or spending time with people who do not matter to you. You must realize that your time is limited and precious and you must fill that time with meaningful interactions. I realize that you have to spend some part of your day carrying out the activities of daily living, such as doing groceries, picking up your children from school and taking them to activities. However, any free time you do have to meaningful interaction must be cherished.

If you have people in your life, who matter to you, and you are close to, take time everyday to talk to them. Do this, even if it is only for five minutes but truly engage with them with all of your being and be fully present with them. This will let the other person know that they matter and you care about them and they will be more likely to reciprocate these feelings. It is absolutely essential that we spend some time daily in meaningful conversation with people who matter to us, even if we are busy, otherwise we will continue to feel lonely.

What if you do not have anyone who you are close to, who you can engage in a deep conversation with? In that case, find someone who is struggling in their life and reach out to them and offer to help them in whatever way you can. It is not hard to find people who are struggling in their personal and professional lives, especially now in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic. You just have to look around and pay attention. Once you identify such people, reach out to them, talk to them, find how how they feel and what they are going through and how you can help them.

Not only will doing this give you a great feeling of helping out someone in need, it will also help to alleviate our feelings of loneliness, as you will be interacting with another human being, who needs your attention now. The funny thing is that they will not realize that you are lonely and need them as much as they need you. You are not just reaching out to help another individual by interacting with them on a deep meaningful level and hopefully finding common ground, which could form the basis of a long-term friendship.

Not everyone, who you reach out to, will become a close friend but the more people you help, the more likely you will be able to find people who you share common ground with and can be friends with. However, you must actively seek out others, as there is no other way that you will be able to overcome your loneliness. We are social creatures and have always lives in tribes and communities and it is just modern society and its technological conveniences that have led us astray into isolation and the ensuing loneliness and depression.

You now have a pathway out of loneliness, and, although it may force you out of your comfort zone, the rewards are priceless and will leave you happier, healthier and more fulfilled in the end. Stepping out of your comfort zone is a small price to pay for such huge rewards so do not let another moment go by wallowing in your loneliness. It does not have to be this way.

Dr. Nauman Naeem


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