Tag Archives: loneliness

#73 Find Your Walden

green-dotmysterious path “I have a great deal of company in my house;  especially in the mornings, when nobody calls… I am no more lonely than the loon in the pond that laughs so loud, or than Walden Pond itself.  What company has that lonely lake, I pray?  … I am no more lonely than a single mullein or dandelion in a pasture, or a bean leaf, or sorrel, or a horse-fly, or a humble bee.  I am no more lonely than the Mill Brook, or a weathercock, or the north star, or the south wind, or an April shower, or a January thaw, or the first spider in a new house. “In the midst of a gentle rain while these thoughts prevailed, I was suddenly sensible of such sweet and beneficent society in Nature, in the very pattering of the drops, and in every sound and sight around my house, an infinite and unaccountable friendliness all at once like an atmosphere sustaining me, as made the fancied advantages of human neighborhood insignificant, and I have never thought of them since. Every little pine needle expanded and swelled with sympathy and befriended me.  I was so distinctly made aware of the presence of something kindred to me, even in scenes which we are accustomed to call wild and dreary, and also that the nearest of blood to me and humanness was not a person nor a villager, that I thought no place could ever be strange to me again.”   –Thoreau, from:  Walden, 1845.

  • Describe your most favorite, most soothing place out of doors. Write about a time when you found this place to give you comfort.

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# 54 Make Small Talk With Someone You Barely Know



People in a coffee shop     We’ve known for years that social isolation, or loneliness, is bad for our health.  Isolated people have more health problems, and they don’t live as long as people who stay connected to others.  Psychologists have questioned whether it is the subjective feeling of loneliness, i.e., the lack of a close companion to talk to, or whether it is the lack of all types of social interaction with others, that is the important factor asso-ciated with poor health and decline as we  age.

Asked another way, how much connectedness does one need to maintain a sense of well being?  Do we need to be married?  To have a wide circle of close friends?  Someone to talk to about our problems?  Or is it enough to have a brief chat with the mailman and ask the woman at the drycleaners how her son is doing in college?

Researcher Andrew Steptoe of the University College of London led a team which explored this question by tracking lives of 6,500 people age 52 or older over a span of seven years.  As expected, those who were socially isolated were more likely to have died (22% passed away) than those who were more connected (12%).  The feeling of loneliness was associated with early death but not as strongly as was social isolation.  What surprised them, however, is that the amount of social contact with others, even  brief social contact, was associated with longer life spans.  The takeaway is this—even small talk with an acquaintance like the bus driver—could extend your  life.

*  For several days this week, make small talk with strangers, or people you barely know:  the cashier and the bagger at the grocery store, that person at church who doesn’t attend very often, the waitress, the neighbor you see raking leaves in his yard, the man walking his dog in the park, the barista at your favorite coffee shop, the letter carrier. .

*  Imagine for a moment that when you do this, you are adding a day to the length of your life.

*  Imagine this too, that you are adding a day to the length of that person’s life as well.



Steptoe, A.  March 19, 2013. Social isolation, loneliness, and all-cause mortality in older men and women. Proceedings of the NationalAcademy of Sciences.

(excerpted in:  Scientific American Mind, Sept./Oct. 2013).




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