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In the West there is loneliness, which I call the ‘leprosy of the West’. In many ways it is worse than our poor in Calcutta

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --

One of the greatest diseases that hundreds of thousands of people are suffering is the disease of loneliness. Loneliness and isolation are the gateways to many of the issues and ills we encounter every day in our workspaces. Studies have shown that people that are lonely are more likely to smoke, drink, abuse drugs, overeat and work too much. But what exactly is loneliness? Is it just the absence of people? Is it the absence of family and friends? I’m sure many of you can agree that simply to be around people is not to be free of loneliness. One can be lonely in a crowd, or even in a shop or workplace. Loneliness is more of state of mind. It is being unknown or not being able to truly be yourself or speak your mind. It is a lack of connection.

We are created for connection. We cannot thrive in isolation, it simply isn’t possible. Our current social media and smartphone culture has simultaneously connected and isolated us. We have greater access to each other and to more people, but we are intimately connected to fewer people than ever before. How can we be more intentional about fostering great relationships? First, deliberately connect with the people already in your life. Spend quality time with the kids and with your spouse. Put the phones down and talk and listen and engage. Second, get out there! If you don’t have the immediate family to connect with, be intentional about getting out there and meeting people and making friends. Pick up a hobby or volunteer somewhere. Connect yourself somewhere along the way with a community. Fight the disease of loneliness by being more intentional about your relationships and your connectivity.