How do you heal yourself and others by keeping company?
A recent article in the WSJ's Innovations in Health Care Journal Report points out something that I have known for a long time: social isolation is hazardous for your health. Not just uncomfortable. Or inconvenient. But hazardous to your health.
In fact, the Journal reports that loneliness and living alone increase the risk of early death, equal to or greater to major health problems, such as obesity. "Having greater social connections is associated with a 50% reduced risk of premature death."
Yes, loneliness is reported to be highest in people 80 or over. But I know plenty of people who feel lonely at college, who feel isolated at work, or who feel alone as single parents.
I think about what I know to be true for myself. When a friend spontaneously texts me to invite me out for a walk, my heart wakes up. When I make the time to visit an elderly friend who broke her hip, my heart wakes up. And when I send a care package to a young friend who is in his first weeks of college, my heart wakes up. "You are not alone. I am here, too, and I care about you."
My heart wakes up both when I keep others company and when others keep me company.
Every day, I can expand ways to heal others by keeping company.