Every year, on July 11th, comes a somewhat obscure national day – obscure enough that we’re willing to bet you haven’t heard of it before. Today is Cheer Up the Lonely Day! Created with a simple mission: to promote kindness by cheering up someone who needs cheering up, which, at any one time or another, could be any one of us.
Even while communication technology seems to keep us more connected than ever before, social isolation is actually on the rise. According to research done by Cigna, the health insurer, in a pool of 20,000 participants, 54% said they sometimes or always feel that no one knows them well. Two-fifths of participants said they felt isolated from others and reported a lack of meaningful relationships in their lives.
Loneliness is a feeling we all know something about, but did you know it can have significant consequences to our health, and even to our life expectancy? Vivek Murthy, the First Senior Fellow of Well Being Trust and former US Surgeon General recently wrote, “Loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity.” We humans are social beings, and a healthy network of loving, supportive relationships is crucial to our well-being, and to the quality of our lives.
In honor of Cheer Up the Lonely Day, we can all be the antidote to loneliness. Below are a few ways that you can celebrate.
1. Give someone a call
Whether you know a lonely someone that may need cheering up, or even if you’re feeling lonely yourself, picking up the phone is a great place to start. Give a loved one a call- an old friend, a grandparent you haven’t seen since Christmas, a sibling, a parent, or whomever else. You don’t need a good reason. Just calling to say hi and catch up is reason enough.
2. Write someone
Write a friend or family member a letter, or an email, or even a thoughtful text, just to say it’s been a while. Maybe you can find a time to catch up over coffee and scones. Even little gestures like a letter can make all the difference.
3. Start a social group
Book clubs, recreation leagues, dining clubs, yoga groups, jam bands, a Dungeons and Dragons guild – these are all perfectly great social clubs to get all of us shut-ins out into the world again, and into good company. You could be the one to start a group, and today is a good time to start it. Unlike a one-off lunch outing, or a catch-up over coffee (though those are great options too) social clubs are a gift that keeping on giving. Give yourself and others a weekly or monthly event to look forward to.
Retirement homes rely on volunteers to keep residents company, whether that’s just coming by to chat, to help with tidying rooms, or to lead activities. As we age, our social circles tend to shrink year by year, and as a result, loneliness is especially common in senior citizens. Research has found that, among all adults, there are two age groups most likely to experience loneliness: the under-25 crowd, and the over-65 folks. In honor of Cheer Up the Lonely Day, consider donating a few hours or more of your time to lead bingo night, or to give manicures, or just to hang around and shoot the breeze over a board game.
5. Start a lunch table group
If you, Reader, happen to be of the school-going age, you are in a perfect position to help the under-25 crowd (who, as we mentioned above, are also especially faced with loneliness). Starting an inclusive lunch group in your cafeteria is an easy and powerful way to stand up against loneliness together with your classmates. Find helpful resources on starting a lunch group at your school here.
Of course these are only a few of the countless ways we can fight loneliness. We want to know how you will celebrate Cheer Up the Lonely Day. Join the mental health and wellness conversation on social using the hostages #BeWell, #BeHeard, and #BeThere. Or meet us at wellbeingtrust.com and share your story.