Facebook. WhatsApp. Skype. Instagram. We’ve never been more connected, but the hidden conundrum of the 21st century is that many of us feel alienated.
Alienation, and its by-product loneliness, are responsible for all manner of ills including depression, anxiety and addiction and also increase our risk of dementia and heart disease.
We tend to associate alienation with the older generation, and although there are reportedly 1.2 million chronically lonely older people in the UK, alienation is becoming increasingly common amongst younger age groups. Over 9 million people across the UK report that they always or often feel lonely. The statistics extend across all age groups, communities and social setups.
Karl Marx explored four aspects of alienation.
Alienation from work
Humans are designed to be creative beings. When we feel isolated from meaningful work, we can become apathetic. We lack purpose.
Alienation from nature
Not having access to nature or taking regular time to be in nature can have a devastating impact on wellbeing. According to statistics, people respond best to blue and green. It’s no coincidence that these are the colours of our oceans, skies and forests.
Alienation from other people
Humans are community-oriented creatures, and when we feel isolated from our families, colleagues, neighbours and communities, we can feel lonely, invalidated and foster feelings of sorrow or anger which can lead to depersonalisation and extremism.
Alienation from ourselves
Checking in with what you like, dislike, think, feel, believe and value is essential to living a fulfilled life. If we do what we think we should, or what we are told to, we can feel chronically unsatisfied or that we are betraying our own life purpose.
So, what can we do to combat alienation?
- Bring meaning to your work. Find a personal connection to the work you do. Be creative; write, draw, dance and sing. If you can volunteer, do it!
- Spend time outdoors. Visit parks, beaches, woodland and forests. Leave your desk at lunch and go for a walk. Make choices that benefit nature. Say no to palm oil and plastic.
- Strike up conversations with people. Socialise with your colleagues. Meet up regularly with friends. Ask people how they are. Go to events and put yourself out there.
- Take care of yourself. Keep a diary or journal. Reconnect with yourself. What did you like to do as a child? This is probably our most authentic self, which gets covered over in adulthood.
- Give to get. Ironically, to break out of loneliness, we often have to put ourselves out there rather than expect anyone to come to our aid. Reach out to people and make others feel less alienated. You may find it helps you too!
All my love