WE ’ RE EXPERIENCING a loneliness epidemic .
More of us live alone now compared to ever before , and a New York Times article says the percentage of American adults who report they ’ re lonely has doubled since the 1980s . Now it ’ s sky-high at 40 %.
And it gets worse . A recent metaanalysis titled “ Social Relationships and Mortality Risk ” shows loneliness creates double the mortality risk of obesity and is actually even greater than the risk of smoking .
Suddenly it feels like many of us are facing a particularly bleak future .
Do you ever feel lonely ? Or know others who do ? I certainly felt devastatingly lonely when I crash-landed downtown after my divorce years ago . Suddenly I had no friends , no family , and no social structure around me . It took me time to invent a twoword philosophy to kick myself out of the gloom and doom . What was it ?
SAY YES . I know it ’ s not revolutionary , but it changed my behavior so much .
Suddenly with my new philosophy I was saying yes to anything I was asked to do . I found myself volunteering for charity functions , going to the play with six people in the audience , and saying yes to any event , literally any event , anybody asked me to attend .
Shonda Rhimes , creator and producer of shows like Grey ’ s Anatomy and Private Practice , delivered a four-million-plus viewed TED Talk called “ My year of saying yes to everything .” In it she says :
“ So a while ago , I tried an experiment . For one year , I would say yes to all the things that scared me . Anything that made me nervous , took me out of my comfort zone , I forced myself to say yes to . Did I want to speak in public ? No , but yes . Did I want to be on live TV ? No , but yes . . . And a crazy thing happened : the very act of doing the thing that scared me undid the fear , made it not scary . My fear of public speaking , my social anxiety , poof , gone . . . ‘ Yes ’ changed my life . ‘ Yes ’ changed me .”
Yes puts you in situations you ’ re not comfortable with . Yes helps you get out there . Oh , and how big is the relationship between social ties and happiness ? It ’ s not big . It ’ s gigantic . According to Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert , who wrote the best seller Stumbling on Happiness :
“ IF I WANTED TO PREDICT YOUR HAPPINESS , AND I COULD KNOW ONLY ONE THING ABOUT YOU , I WOULDN ’ T WANT TO KNOW YOUR GENDER , RELIGION , HEALTH , OR INCOME . I ’ D WANT TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR SOCIAL NETWORK — ABOUT YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY AND THE STRENGTH OF THE BONDS WITH THEM .”
So say yes . Say yes ! Get out there . When you sign up for things you ’ re scared to do , go on trips you never thought you ’ d go on , and sign up for activities you have no business doing , guess what happens ?
You meet new people , you create new relationships , you combat loneliness headon . . . and you become happier .
And if a Year of Yes sounds too intimidating , no problem . Just start with a Day of Yes first . How about today ?
Neil Pasricha is the New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Equation and The Book of Awesome series , which has been published in 10 countries , spent over five years on bestseller lists , and sold over a million copies . Pasricha is a Harvard MBA , one of the most popular TED speakers of all time , and after 10 years heading Leadership Development at Walmart he now serves as Director of The Institute for Global Happiness . He has dedicated the past 15 years of his life to developing leaders , creating global programs inside the world ’ s largest companies and speaking to hundreds of thousands of people around the globe . He lives in Toronto with his wife and sons .
Neil . Blog
BY : NEIL PASRICHA