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Lonely? Isolated? You are not the only one.

A recent report indicates that 36% of all Americans—including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children—feel lonely and isolated. The pandemic not only upped those numbers but also highlighted how prevalent loneliness and isolation are in America.

Zoom was a lifeline for some during the pandemic, but did it help relieve isolation? As a hospice social worker, I see many patients who do not have family around. Pandemic restrictions made it very difficult to reach people who live alone or have no supports. Many social programs in place prior to the pandemic were no longer an option, and alternative ways to maintain in-person connections were needed. In Italy at the beginning of the pandemic people would sing and play music on their balconies and the entire neighborhood would participate. It was a new way of building community that we all crave.

Now that the pandemic emergency is over, what are we left with? For one thing, there is a clearer spotlight on this issue. My synagogue, like many others, continues to have services live streamed. This enables more people to connect and participate in our community. The pandemic demonstrated how we can reach more people with technology. Grocery delivery and curbside pickup, all services that were uncommon prior to the pandemic but are very much here to stay. Telehealth is another area of growth post pandemic with clear advantages. But, what are we missing?

Face to face connections can be very powerful. Have you ever met someone in public, perhaps at a grocery store or drug store, and you got a visceral reaction? It may have been a positive one or a negative one, but it demonstrates just how much communication happens non-verbally just by being in someone’s presence. You may encounter someone on a walk around your neighborhood and they smile at you. No words, yet it can make your day to have someone acknowledge you and reach out in this way.

Another recent study suggests that even those quick, short connections with strangers can make us happier and feel less lonely. Could it be that this nonverbal exchange of energy gives us much more than we realize? One can’t measure this energy, but I think most of us know when someone else has touched us emotionally or brought a smile to our face. Did you know that there is evidence to suggest that smiling more actually makes you happier? Maybe we need each other so much more than we realize, even more than ever. So next time you are feeling lonely, get out in the world and smile at a stranger, it could make your day and theirs.

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Maybe we can help you find your smile? Request support from Ruach here.