We may be more connected than ever but loneliness is still on the rise. With research showing that long term feelings of loneliness can be linked to poor physical and mental health, as well as an increased risk of mortality, it's important to address this challenge of modern life.
Loneliness is literally painful. It activates the same brain areas that alert us to physical pain, making us seek out others and encouraging us to spend time with family and friends. To prevent our brains triggering this feeling, we must understand why it happens and learn to respond to it promptly.
A recent survey commissioned by The Big Lunch found that three in five people think more social interaction would help them to feel less lonely. But what is social interaction? Is it only talking face to face or can social media count? In fact, it's different for everyone- some people only need a quick chat on the phone or a text exchange, others need a lengthy face to face conversation. People's need for social contact varies but the main motivators are: the frequency and intimacy of the social interaction.
Understanding our needs for social interaction is important as many people are not satisfied with their current level of social contact. The survey found that around two thirds of adults in the UK are not meeting their desired need for social interaction. To illustrate how everyone has different needs when it comes to social interaction and reducing loneliness, The Big Lunch has developed a Social Animals Quiz which helps people identify which animal personality they fit into. So whether you love being part of a big crowd, or prefer your own company, this quiz can help you determine the level of social interaction you require.
Want to know what personality type you are? Visit The Big Lunch blog to take the quiz.
Feeling lonely is nothing to fear; we all feel that way at some point. What's important is identifying and accepting the type and amount of social interaction you need so that you can avoid the trap of long term loneliness, which can have a serious impact on your health and wellbeing.
Getting to know your neighbours is a great way to start expanding your social circle. According to research, around one in 10 people don't know their neighbours at all. Whether it's a wave over the fence or a nod hello in the morning, small steps can really help boost social interaction.
Every June, millions of people all over the UK take part in The Big Lunch. By holding events in their streets, gardens, local parks and community centres, everyone gets to know their neighbours better and helps to reduce loneliness in their local community.
An idea from The Eden Project and made possible by the Big Lottery Fund, The Big Lunch is the perfect recipe for having fun with neighbours, feeding community spirit and building stronger communities. For more information, visit: www.thebiglunch.com.