Lifting Our Spirits: Moving Away from Isolation

It doesn’t matter what stage of life we’re in, as adults we’re all prone to experiencing bouts of loneliness. The irony of feeling adrift in an ever more connected world does not pass unnoticed and, yet, everyone understands what I mean—even here in gorgeous, glamorous, sunny Santa Barbara where all the beautiful people come to stare at one another from behind their sunglasses. In fact, in the midst of a happy round of socializing with friends I adore, I feel inexplicably solitary. It’s unsettling to feel reunited and separate all at once. I’m not sure what that’s about. People tell me the same thing: they say that they feel somewhat removed from what’s going on around them, no matter how grounded their lives appear, how busy their days. While I could spend plenty of time wondering what this says about the human condition, I know enough not to waste my time. It happens to everyone. We look around, unsure of our place, unsure of our purpose, and wondering how we got here. Feeling isolated is a chronic conundrum.

But feeling removed from the world for too long isn’t healthy. Dwelling on our sense of separation only increases it. Instead, we need to seek out reasons and ways to reconnect because doing so will both contribute to the greater good and enhance our personal sense of wellbeing. Remember, the entire point of re-booting is to empower us to move closer to that “sweet spot” of who we really are, so we need to start with where we direct our thoughts. Emotions are contagious; they influence every corner of our lives. Whatever we exercise grows, so the more joy and gratitude we express, the more we will feel connected to life. (By contrast, think of someone you know who feeds on their sense of disappointment or anger, allowing these feelings to poison them. My grandmother was a champion at this; she dedicated decades–eons–to nursing her feelings of resentment and jealousy. Regularly, she would transform into a frothing harpy. Ugh. I was glad when she left this earthly plane.) When we catch ourselves circling the drain of our gloom or indifference, it’s important to take steps to reverse course. Therefore, today’s post focuses on what we can do to rebuild our enthusiasm.

A great place to start is with praising others. Earlier today, I was talking with some men who told me that as they have progressed through life, they’ve made a conscious effort to compliment or thank someone each day—whether that’s their wife, the grocery clerk, or someone else entirely. The fact that these men have incorporated into their mindset the effort to notice, appreciate, and communicate something positive is a guaranteed strategy for seeing more good in life. When was the last time you praised a stranger? When you acknowledged the efforts of your spouse or a friend? What have you done, lately, that made somebody else feel good?

A slight variation on the same theme involves extending ourselves. A longtime mentor shared her tactic: she keeps a list of about 30 people she’s known over the years, each of whom would be happy to hear from her. These people needn’t be close bosom buddies, they just have to be individuals she likes. Once or twice a week, she’ll close her eyes and point at a name, summoning a happy memory about that person, and then she calls them–just to say hello. “A friendly call works wonders,” she gushed. “They’re happy. I’m happy. And we both feel lighter. Doing so changes my entire day.” When was the last time you called someone out of the blue?

A third strategy for building enthusiasm is more us-focused: making time to do something we love, something that fills an internal yearning. All too often, we eliminate such activities, telling ourselves that we can do it later, that there’s no time, we’ve got chores to do, deadlines to meet, we’re exhausted, other people need our attention. I know. I get it. But, I remind you how much more energy you’ll have to give to your responsibilities when you feel satisfied about how you’ve spent a portion of your day doing something YOU want to do. This is not an indulgence. It’s not a waste of time. It’s an investment that pays high dividends. Making time for this is precisely how we reconnect with the joy of living.

What are you compelled to do?

Whatever it is, you need a lot more of it in your life, but you have to make it a priority. For example, I know that for myself, even though here I am preaching to you about cultivating enthusiasm, I can easily slip back into the doldrums. Though it pains me to confess it, the temptation to sit in my shadowy basement, alone and wondering what in the world I think I’m doing with my life–when it feels like everyone else is living lives filled with purpose and connection, going to pool parties or barbecues or whatever it is normal people do—is great. I know better, but this doesn’t keep me from thinking these thoughts. When I catch myself which gets easier and easier, I literally tell myself to STOP. I find some sort of distraction—getting some fresh air is a favorite–and then I usually start to write. Writing makes me feel good; it’s a creative outlet for me. It makes me feel productive and fulfilled. This blog has helped me so much: I get to select a topic which interests me and then figure out a way to make it interesting to you, too. Hours go by and I don’t notice. The more I do this, the more my perspective brightens…

Ok, so that’s probably enough on this topic. I’ve listed out three strategies that you can experiment with to rebuild your sense of connection. It’s destructive to our souls to isolate ourselves. We are social creatures who need one another. The camaraderie of connection reassures us that we are seen, reminds us we are valued, and reenergizes us to move forward on a positive trajectory. Our friends are far kinder to us than we are to ourselves. They are there to lift us up and make us laugh.

Re-booters needn’t make this journey alone, but sometimes we need reminding. Your assignment for today is to compliment someone. Let them know you see the positive they bring. If that feels good, make a list of 10-20 people you know who would be happy to hear from you. Promise yourself you’ll call one of them later this week. I’m willing to bet you’ll feel better.

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One Response to “Lifting Our Spirits: Moving Away from Isolation”

  1. Jim Patterson Says:

    Well done Chrisanna!!

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