Someone on social media — who? where? I forget! — said their doctor told them to have seven face-to-face conversations every day. This hit me as brilliant advice, an easy-to-follow antidote to loneliness.
It’s a prescription. Your doctor doesn’t prescribe “some antibiotics when you feel like it” but a precise number of pills of a precise nature and size at precise times.
We surely know by now that loneliness is a dangerous emotional condition, potential forerunner of other undesirables such as physical illness, mental illness, and premature death. But to “stop being lonely” or “avoid social isolation” can seem impossible, entirely impractical because … we feel all alone.
How refreshing to have this simple prescription in plain language at hand. If I felt lonely I would stick it on my fridge door. Perhaps I’ll do that anyway, as I live alone and can sometimes get a little too absorbed in the work of the day. Perhaps I’ll count up my face-to-face chats for a week, and check whether I meet that goal. I’m pretty sure I do, as I often accost strangers with a word or two. (And getting vox populi quotes from strangers on the street for my play certainly bumps up the score.)
A SMART goal: 7 conversations every day
I still use many tricks and tools that I learned when I was in business. SMART goals, for instance. Personal goals work best when they are like the loneliness antidote: Have 7 face-to-face conversations per day.
- SPECIFIC: face-to-face conversations; not on social media but face-to-face with a living, breathing person.
- MEASURABLE: seven per day
- ATTAINABLE: in my case, yes, because I am not housebound and I live in a city. I see strangers, check-out clerks, bus-drivers and pedestrians every day. Not to mention my regular dates with family, choir, gym classes and friends.
- RELEVANT: Why does this matter? Because I don’t want to feel lonely. Because loneliness is a killer. Because I’m an introvert, capable of working happily alone all day every day. Because I want to form tiny habits to stand me in good stead for difficult times ahead.
- TIME-BOUND: Do it every day for the rest of my life.
A plain English prescription: clear, understandable, usable
Language matters. When you choose to make a change in your life, it’s best to describe the change in concrete everyday words in short sentences. Otherwise you can feel overwhelmed, confused, or annoyed. In which case you’re in no state to start up a conversation, let alone 7.
Oops! I’m starting to sound bossy. Over to you now.
Why loneliness is a killer. Psychology Today. 24 May 2023.Follow Write Into Life