In this episode of Bulletproof Radio, Dr. Vivek Murthy and I talk about a topic that often doesn’t get talked about–loneliness. People often don’t know how to define it; they just know they feel it. Sometimes people are afraid to admit it. It also harms people’s health, productivity, and happiness.
I was intrigued by Dr. Vivek Murthy’s book “Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World.”
Dr. Murthy is an internal medicine physician who served as the 19th Surgeon General of the United States appointed by President Barack Obama. During his service, he visited communities all over the United States to find out what health issues concerned people most.
“To my surprise, the topic of emotional well-being, in general, and loneliness in particular, received the strongest response from the public of any issues I worked on as surgeon general,” Dr. Murthy says in his book. “It’s a universal condition that affects all of us directly or through the people we love.”
He also saw a common thread of loneliness when he took care of patients in private medical practice.
His work with loneliness obviously leads to the power of connection. Human connection is critical to our health, its value is often overlooked, and it couldn’t be more timely to talk about right now.
“During this global pandemic, people have actually been pulled even further apart in some ways,” Dr. Murthy says. “We're not able to see each other as readily as we were able to before. That has introduced an even deeper element of loneliness into many people's lives. My worry is that if we don't do anything differently, if we don't recognize what's happening, then we will experience a deepening of that loneliness and trigger something that I think of as a social recession.”
He also says that loneliness is a great masquerader: it can look like anger, boredom, depression or anxiety. There’s no shame in identifying loneliness for what it is, which is, in fact, a common human condition. And with awareness, we can name it and take steps to shore up our social connections. There are many tips in this episode to help you foster deeper connections and improve your well-being.
“If we harness the power of social connection and recognize just how much it could impact our health, our performance and our sense of fulfillment, then we could improve our lives in extraordinary ways,” Dr. Murthy says.
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