Photo by UW Madison

It seems like this week I’ve been having a lot of conversations about loneliness. A first year student who misses her family. A young professional who doesn’t quite know how to make friends since leaving school. A graduate student who feels like everyone else is making the transition into their academic department well, but like they are struggling.

I’ve also been catching up on a podcast from The Atlantic called “How to Build a Happy Life.” One of the recent episodes was a conversation between the host, Arthur Brooks, and the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy. Their conversation is worth the whole ~40 minute listen, but here are a few thoughts I found helpful.

  • Loneliness isn’t correlated with how many people you interact with. Dr. Murthy uses college students, who reside in large communities, as an example of how individuals surrounded by others can still be lonely.
  • More people are lonely than you think. More than one in ten people report feeling lonely at any given time. This means you shouldn’t assume everyone else is fine. 
  • Meaningful relationships bring us more happiness than success, material goods, or self-indulgence.
  • It doesn’t take that much time to alleviate loneliness. A few short, meaningful interactions, can make a huge difference. Quality is more important than quantity.

Maybe you’re feeling a little bit lonely this week. Or maybe you’re not. Either way, it’s likely that many of the people you interact with could use a little bit of extra care. I invite you to think about how you can make a difference to someone else (and to yourself) this week. 

Try to have a conversation with someone that stretches beyond the weather, heavy course loads, and Badger football. Go first. Be authentic and vulnerable. Really listen to what people say, and notice how they seem to be feeling.

And if you need a space where you can be a part of a meaningful conversation, consider joining in with one of LCM’s activities. The topics of conversation vary, but you can always expect a community that’s grounded in being authentic, vulnerable, and real. 

Take care of yourself, and others, this week.