Podcast

Fitty & Fatty Ep. 42

This week Fitty talks about loneliness and social isolation.  While Fatty gives us some tips to tackle food waste.  Thanks for listening

https://fittyandfatty.podbean.com/e/fitty-and-fatty-s2-ep42-loneliness-and-food-waste/

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Podcast

Fitty & Fatty Ep. 41

On this week’s episode Fitty talks about the problem with perfectionism while Fatty has some recipes for DIY beauty products.  Thanks for listening xxx

https://fittyandfatty.podbean.com/e/fitty-and-fatty-s2-ep41-positivity-and-diy-beauty-products/

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Articles

Think P!NK

Last weekend my best friend and I boarded a Ryanair flight from Dublin to Glasgow.  We were on our way to see P!NK.  We had tried and failed to get tickets for her Dublin show, so my friend’s husband treated us to tickets for the show in Scotland.

The trip was organised months ago, and I should have been eagerly anticipating it.  But, as often happens with these things, the closer it got, the more the little gremlins inside my head started piping up.  Saying things like “work is so busy right now, I can’t really afford the time off.”  Or “my house is a tip, I could really do with getting it sorted out.”

There was never a chance that I was going to cancel, but these nagging thoughts threatened to ruin the experience for me before it had even begun.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go.  It was that anxiety or apathy was trying to find an excuse for me to stay home.  Because let’s face it, that’s always the easier option!

As soon as we arrived at the airport and ordered a drink I started to relax.  All the annoying niggles began to fade away.  The weekend was a great success.  The show itself was amazing, and we had a blast for the whole weekend.  We sampled Glasgow’s gay bars and casinos.  Neither of which we had actually set out to do.  Furthermore, it reminded me of a few important things.

Something old

My travel companion has been my best friend since we were 16.  That’s not today or yesterday!  We have literally been through everything together.  From family drama to being bridesmaid at each other’s wedding.  She knows me better than I know myself at times.

In recent weeks, I had been feeling a little sad.  There wasn’t anything specific I could put this down to.  But I suspect being in therapy had made me a bit raw.  Last week in particular, I was struggling and the only way I can think of describing it is as being heart sick.  The feeling of unexplained loss and unnamed longing.

Spending 48 hours in the company of someone who knows me so well and loves me warts and all has been like a balm.  As we stood among tens of thousands of people, singing tunelessly and drinking Tennants out of plastic glasses, I began to feel like myself again.

It’s becoming obvious to me that when we are at our lowest, being around people who just get us is so important.  They don’t need to do anything or say anything, other than offer to hold your drink while you pop to the loo.  When you feel that you are barely able to recognise yourself, it helps to be reassured that you are still who you used to be.

Something new

As we waited to board our flight home yesterday evening, I was tired from two late nights, and perhaps a tiny bit too much alcohol.  But deep down I felt revived.  Being in a new city, having a change of scene and getting away from it all, had restored me.  Had we gone to the Dublin concert, it would have been the same artist, and the same show.  The effect, however, would have been different.  It would not have been a “new” experience and could not have been so uplifting.  The mind loves novelty and it thrives on it.

Also, we often underestimate how much confidence can be gained from doing something new.  Navigating a strange city and managing the logistics can make you feel very accomplished.  (Remind me to tell you about getting lost in Rome another time!)

Girls just wanna have fun

One of the reasons I am in counselling is because I am having what I am calling an “Existential Crisis.”  I am trying to figure out my purpose in life and what I want to do when I grow up.  I find myself thinking “there has to be more to life than this” on a regular basis.

This issue is exacerbated by my awareness that I am not getting any younger.  I will be 38 this year, and I can’t help feeling like it’s all getting away from me.  I am sure a lot of people go through this as they approach midlife, and it is a season that will eventually pass.

Until that happens, it is really nice to be reminded that I am still capable of having fun.  That I am not too old to try new things or to enjoy myself.  It was so lovely to see traces of my younger self alive and well.  Maybe it’s not too late?

It turns out that as much as I tried to talk myself out of this trip, it was exactly what I needed.  The next time you find yourself thinking that you can’t be bothered to do something fun, or telling yourself it’s too much hassle, ask yourself, “is this my anxiety talking?”  “Am I stuck in a rut?”  Try to figure out what exactly is making you feel that way.  If you genuinely don’t want to do the thing, that’s fine.  However, if it’s a case that avoiding adventure has become your default, challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone.

Unfortunately, when we are struggling, we are often tempted to pull away from people and avoid trying new things.  This only leads to greater feelings of isolation and boredom, which in turn breed further struggle.  It’s a vicious cycle and one that can seem impossible to get out of when you are in the middle of it.  I try to think of it is as bicycle wheel spinning.  All it takes is a small rod in the spokes to interrupt it.

Of course two nights away hasn’t solved all my problems.  I still don’t have the answers.  However, I have been given a glimpse of what lies beyond this, and the assurance that if I can keep persuading myself to put one foot in front of the other, I will eventually get there.  In short, I feel better and you can’t put a price on that.  Be well xxx

 

Podcast

Fitty & Fatty Ep. 36

https://fittyandfatty.podbean.com/e/fitty-and-fatty-ep36-saying-no-depression/

This week we talk about how important it is to learn how to say no and ask for help.  We also take a close look at depression.

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Podcast

Fitty & Fatty Ep. 35

 

In this week’s episode we talk about the role habits play in getting you towards your goal.  We also take a close look at anxiety.

Thanks for listening!

https://fittyandfatty.podbean.com/e/fitty-and-fatty-ep35-habits-and-anxiety/

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Articles

Dear Florida Man – America’s Gun Violence Epidemic

Straight out of the gate, I am going to let you know that this is not the type of article I usually write.  Normally, I am very careful to avoid voicing my political opinions on this blog.  I try to stay in my lane as it were.  Gun violence is definitely not my usual scope.  However, a headline caught my attention this morning that made my heart hurt.  It had such an affect on me, that I cannot stay silent.  It was this.

“Florida lawmakers to approve bill allowing teachers to be armed.”

There is so much wrong with these ten words, that I scarcely know where to begin.

Gun violence is a huge problem in America.  It’s a problem I thought I understood the scale of, until I went to research this piece.  In the month of April alone, there were 35 mass shootings.  That is more than 1 per day.  I struggle to wrap my mind around this, as I scan the seemingly unending list of numbered but unnamed victims.  So far this year, 120 people have lost their lives in mass shooting events.  Hundreds more have been injured.

I don’t know why this phenomenon has come about.  In the 20 years since Columbine, mass shootings have become literally a daily event.  I can’t tell you why this is.  Neither can I speculate as to why this seems to be a uniquely American problem.  I don’t know what the answer is.  I do, however, know what the answer is not.  More guns.

The idea that the solution to gun violence is more guns, is akin to thinking the obesity crisis can be solved with more cheese burgers.  It is ludicrous.

As I read this story on the RTE website, I felt my stomach turn.  My morning coffee soured on my tongue.  I experienced a deep sense of foreshadowing, and all I could think was how long will it be before we see a headline reading “Florida teacher shoots unarmed student.”

I understand that, as Americans, your right to bear arms is protected under your constitution.  Similarly, I understand that a lot of you are fiercely protective of this right.  For many American people guns are a part of life.  But what about your child’s rights?

Surely a child’s right to be educated without terror should be just as inalienable.  It makes me incredibly sad to think of the lasting impact the trauma of gun violence will have on the survivors.  However, the ripple effect goes far farther than I think we realise yet.

The kids in school now are the first generation of children who have had to deal with this crisis as part of their reality.  They are the first who have had to practice drills, and make their way through metal detectors.  They are constantly reminded that the threat of violence is very real.  I honestly cannot imagine trying to survive in such a high stress situation.  Let alone trying to learn in it.

These kids are in their formative years.  The time spent sitting in classrooms and fooling around in the hallways will absolutely shape the adults they will become.  How can they hope to grow into trusting, whole hearted adults when they spend the years between 5 and 18 facing clear and present danger every single day?  Your children are growing up in a warzone.  Unfortunately, there will be no refugee status for them.

On March 15th, New Zealand had a mass shooting incident of its own.  Within one week, their Prime Minister had taken steps to ban automatic weapons.  America, and in particular Florida, seems to be taking the exact opposite approach.  Putting guns in the hands of those who may never ordinarily have owned them.

Teachers, educators, those responsible for nurturing your young child’s mind and imagination.  Those responsible for empowering your son or daughter to reach their potential, will now be able to literally end their life.  I have dealt with angry, bad tempered teachers in my time, but I never had to worry about them shooting me.

It is not a question of if an innocent child gets caught in the crossfire, or if a stressed-out teacher mistakes a child reaching for a cell phone for an attack.  It is a question of when.  Under the new legislation, teachers would be required to undertake 144 hours of training before carrying guns, but that doesn’t reassure me.

The internet is littered with “Florida Man” memes.  We all like to joke about the crazy, surreal things that go on there.  Somehow, I don’t think that particular Florida Man headline would evoke the same response.

There is a saying that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The second-best time is now.  Some would argue that American gun laws should have been tightened up on April 21st 1999.  I would count myself among them.  However, it’s not too late.  The time to to speak up and take whatever action we can, is now.

This outrageously wanton loss of life is becoming part of our culture, we cannot allow ourselves to be numb to it.  We need to stand up and fight for every child’s right to come home from school.  We owe them that much at least.  Be well xxx

Articles

Can You See Me Now?

“As a child, which parent did you crave love from the most, your mother or your father?”  Easy.  My Father, 100%.  “What did you have to be to get that love?”  I had to be exceptional.  Anyone who has seen Tony Robbins documentary “I am Not Your Guru” will recognise these questions.

I am painfully aware of how much I craved my daddy’s love as a child, and indeed as an adult.  However, it has taken a lot of soul searching and a good smattering of therapy to get to the truth of how deeply this has affected me.  Before I continue, I want to clear something up.  I know my father loves me on an intellectual level.  However, this is not the same thing as feeling it.  Neither is it a substitute for feeling seen or heard.  Recognised or acknowledged.  I ask for your love and patience gentle reader as I attempt to shine a light on my truth as I have come to know it.

In The Beginning:

My parents met as teenagers, and they loved each other in the way you only can when you are that age.  Passionately and irrationally, in very much an “us against the world,” kind of way.  They were still impossibly young when they had me and three years later, my sister.

By the time my mother was 21 she found herself married and raising two children in a country which was in the grips of a recession.  To this day I am in awe of how good a job she did keeping us alive.  We were fed and clothed.  Our mother kept us insulated as best she could.  She was determined to prove that despite her tender years, she could be a great mother, and she was.  She still is.

There wasn’t a huge amount of time for cuddles and kisses in her life.  Having not grown up with them herself, they seemed unimportant.  Dad was different.  He was definitely a hugger, and so, although he probably spent one tenth of the time with us that mom did, it was his lap I coveted.

Achievement, especially academic, was highly praised.  I remember to this day how my father would boast about how his daughter (me) could read the Irish Times by age three.  You would swear I was publishing the thing myself the way he went on about it.  I learned from an early age that excellence would be rewarded.  If I could bring home first the gold stars and later the As, I would (maybe) receive the cherished hugs and praise I so desperately needed.

I learned at age 37, how much this desire for recognition, this need to be seen, has shaped my life.

The Good:

In Tony’s documentary he says that we can’t blame the past for the bad things, without also thanking it for the good.  So here goes.

For most of my school life I was an over achiever.  I loved to be praised and commended.  If there was an award to be had or a prize up for grabs I wanted it.  In fact, during the time of greatest disruption in my life, the year we spent living in California, I was awarded with the President’s Award for Academic Excellence.  Fancy huh?

This continued on into my working life.  From my first job in a newsagents to this very day.  I always wanted to excel.  It didn’t matter how high or low the stakes were, I was compelled to win.  I remember my McDonald’s days.  On busy Saturdays the managers, who were just a few years older than I was, would run competitions.  They would challenge us to see who could serve the most customers in an hour.  The prize was usually a chocolate bar.

Of course, I knew this was an irrelevant honour.  I was pretty sure we were being manipulated into trying to clear the queues faster, but I didn’t care.  I had to win.  Every week there would be a similar competition.  Each time I would do my damnedest to take home the chocolate.

As the years passed, chocolate bars were replaced with employee of the month plaques and promotions.   My competitive edge continued to be sharpened.  Recognition was a drug to me.  Without this addiction, I doubt I would have continued to claw my way up the career ladder.  The dopamine hits fueled my ambition.

The Bad:

The downside of wanting to be brilliant at everything you do, is that you get disappointed a lot.  There are many things I have attempted and promptly found out I suck at.  This is, of course, normal.  Very few people are naturally gifted at even one thing, let alone everything they try!

The problem with me is, I don’t have the patience for learning.  I want to go directly to Mayfair.  If I can collect £200 on my way, even better.  Seriously?  What do you mean I have to practice for hours and hours just so I can play Twinkle Twinkle.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.  Nobody will celebrate that achievement, not even me.  I will still be in withdrawals.

This has lead to me developing a very bad habit.  I drop things which I don’t immediately perfect.  Which, let’s face it, is most things.  As a child I begged my mother to enroll me in activities.  She would sign me up, pay the fees and buy the accouterments.  Only for me to quit as soon as I realised I wasn’t going to be the best.

As I have gotten older, I have become a little better at sticking with things.  After all, I can’t exactly up and quit every job just because I haven’t mastered it on day one.  It is still struggle though.  I still want to be perfect every time.  I hate failing, finishing last and God forbid having to ask for help.  That dopamine rush still hits me anytime my coach high fives me, or my boss says good job.

The Ugly:

Here we are at the part of the story I really didn’t want to write.  This is the part which makes me experience hot shame when I think of it.  That only means it is the part that most needs to be told.

I cannot deal with being ignored or given the silent treatment.  For most of my life I have only felt I existed when I was being seen by other people.  This has caused me to act in ways that I am not proud of.  It has caused me to allow people to treat me badly.

When I was a teenager, I had a group of girlfriends.  All the other girls seemed to constantly be in relationships.  Although I dated a lot, I always ended up single.  I was desperate to have a boyfriend.  I wanted someone special in my life.  Someone to truly see me.  I suffered many humiliations during those years.  I attempted to make myself as appealing as possible.  Tried to be “low maintenance.”  Not asking for too much.  I am sure that I am not unique in this.  Many young women (and men) have probably had similar experiences.

One of the most crushing examples of this came in my first year of college.  I was attending a City Centre college and there were always social events being organised.  One such event was a traffic light ball.  The idea behind it is that each attendee wears a coloured badge.  Green if you are single any ready to mingle.  Orange if you’re open to meeting someone.  Red if you’re not looking.  Needless to say I was GREEN!!

The night was drawing to a close and I was yet to hook up with anyone.  Disconsolate, I sidled up to the bar to order myself another Smirnoff Ice.  To my complete shock, the barman started chatting to me.  His name was Tony.  He was absolutely gorgeous.  Totally out of my league.  At the end of the night he asked for my number and of course I gave it to him.  He called soon after and we began dating.

Tony seemed so cosmopolitan.  Not only was he working in a nightclub, but he was living in an apartment in town.  I was quickly besotted.  We had been out a few times when we met one day for lunch.  After the meal we went back to the apartment he shared with a few people.  (If memory serves, there were about 6 of them living in a one bedroom flat, maybe not so glamourous after all.)  We spent the afternoon kissing on his bed.  I was in heaven.  I felt like one of the Sex in The City girls.

His roommates began to trickle home and he introduced me to them.   Then said he needed to go get his hair cut and that I should wait in the apartment.  “Okay,” I said.  Time went by and I began to get uncomfortable with his unfriendly roommates.  About 2 hours later, his female roommate took a phone call and excused herself.  When she came back in she looked at me and said “that was Tony, he’s not coming back.  He said you should leave.”

I will never forget the way she looked at me.  “Poor cow,” was written all over her face.  I managed to get out of the flat without bursting into tears, barely.  Throughout the hour long bus journey home, I cried.  Trying to ignore the inquiring glances from strangers.

I wish I could tell you that was the end of the story.  That I managed to retain the last shreds of my dignity, but alas that was not the case.  I called him and text him incessantly.  I needed to hear him tell me why.  How could he just abandon me like that?  How could everything be great one minute and over the next?  I couldn’t wrap my head around it.  In my quest for “closure.,” I am surprised the poor guy didn’t file for a restraining order.  It was totally over the top.

Many years have passed since Tony’s haircut, but I am not much better at handling these types of situations.  Silence and withdrawal are the most painful things for me to deal with.  They feel like the ultimate betrayal.

My husband is definitely not the shouting type.  When we first started dating, we had disagreements like every couple getting to know each other.  His response was to walk away from the row, clear this head, be rational.  Mine was the total opposite.  The more silent he became, the more I raged.  I would shout, scream, throw things and ultimately do whatever it took to get a reaction.  Whatever it took to be seen.

Here and now:

If I am to be completely honest about it, this need to be seen, to be acknowledged, has been at the root of almost every action I have taken in my life.  It is what drives me to try to be successful in my career.  It is the motivation behind this blog and my podcast.  The need is also what causes me to flirt, dance on bars (literally,) chase after people who have zero interest and a whole host of other unhealthy and destructive behaviours.

For most of my life, I have been like the Emperor’s New Clothes.  Existing only through the eyes of others.  If you see me, and respond to me, no matter how negatively, I am real.  When you ignore me and overlook me, I am not.

There are many reasons I have cited as to explain why I decided to start therapy.  I wanted help with my anxiety.  I wanted to gain clarity on my purpose in life.  A little more confidence would be good.  All of these reasons are valid ones, but they are not the whole truth.

What really drove me to reach out for help, was being exhausted.  Tying so much of my self worth into other people’s opinions of me and actions towards me, was wearing me out.  I was sick of letting other people control whether I had the best day ever, or plunged into despair.  I wanted to feel like I exist, independently.

There have been so many tears.  Sometimes I feel in danger of dissolving as I try to work my way through all of this.  But slowly, I am beginning to feel like it might just be working.  Little by little I am focusing less on others.  I am less reliant on them for validation and acceptance.  As the weeks unfold, I am beginning to see myself.

It is absolutely terrifying.  At times I feel so vulnerable I could throw up.  Like a butterfly emerging from her chrysalis with still wet wings, I am desperately unsure of myself.  One thing I am sure of however, is that what I had been doing before now was not working for me.  I was harming myself in a million tiny ways.  It is time to stop that now.  Time to try something new.

One of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given is “if you keep doing what you’re doing, you keep getting what you’re getting.”  There is great power in those words.  If we don’t like the path we are on, we have the power to change course.  A deviation of a single degree, can have a massive impact on your destination over time.

Be well.  I see you xxx

 

 

 

Podcast

Fitty & Fatty Ep. 28

This week we had Child Internet Safety Expert, Martin Coughlin in the studio with us, chatting about the ways to keep your kids secure online.  We talked about cyber bullying, revenge porn, identify theft, MOMO and a whole lot more.  Tune in xxx

https://fittyandfatty.podbean.com/e/fitty-and-fatty-ep28-safety-online-with-martin-coughlan/

Young Girl In Bedroom Worried By Bullying Text Message

Articles

Don’t Forget to Breathe!

When I was a little girl, maybe 7 or 8, Santa Claus brought me a Sony Walkman.  It was the late 80’s and every kid wanted to emulate Marty McFly.  The portable cassette player was the must have accessory.  To accompany it, my grandmother bought me the “Get in Shape Girl” fitness program.  I have no idea why.  Looking back, I suspect the Book Club might have had something to do with it.  Regardless of her rationale, I loved it.  It made me so happy to play the cassette and jump around my bedroom like an Olivia Newton John wanna be.

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I remember that while I was feeling the burn, the recorded instructor would give me ques.  She would urge me to “keep smiling,” and “don’t forget to breathe.”  I distinctly recall thinking to myself, even at that young age, how utterly ridiculous this was.  As if you could forget to breathe!

Throughout my life, in my attempts to get in shape, I have encounter numerous fitness instructors.  Many of whom have extolled the same advice about breathing.  Every time, I shrugged it off.  Surely it is just something they are trained to say?  Similar to how they like counting to eight all the time.  But lately, my attitude is changing.

A few months ago, I started working with a counsellor.  (I will talk more about that, when I am further along the path.)  In my very first session with her, she said something incredible.  I was talking about my issues and what I am hoping to get out of going to therapy.  She listened intently.  When I was finished speaking, she said “do you know that you hold your breath when you are deep in thought?”  I had no idea.

Since she said that to me, I have noticed myself doing it more and more.  Every time I concentrate on anything.  Whether that is work, or a game of solitaire.  I hold my breath so tightly that when I eventually do let it go, I feel like I have an elephant sitting on my chest.

My therapist also asked me a question that I am only beginning to understand the answer to.  She said “what is going on between your mind and your body, that your brain can override the most basic biological function.”  This has raised so many other questions for me.  I have begun to try to understand how my mind and body have become so utterly disconnected.  What work will need to be done to restore synchronicity?

The main reason I decided to go to therapy in the first place, was because I had been having anxiety attacks with increasing regularity.  I have always been an anxious person.  However, since things started to go wrong with my work life, it had been getting out of control.  Every time I had a quiet moment, thoughts would start racing through my mind.  Before long, I would begin to experience the familiar tightness in my chest.  The feeling of not being able to draw a complete breath.

I am wondering now if I was inducing this state by forgetting to breathe while I was trying to organise my thoughts.  Could I have been doing it to myself?  Since I have become aware that I do this and have caught myself in the act lots of time, I have not had a single attack.  There must be something to it.

Those of you who have been following the blog will know that I have been practicing meditation for a while now.  I use the Headspace app, and honestly, without it I would be an even bigger basket case!  No matter what pack I am working on, whether the focus is on stress or sleep, the narrator Andy always comes back to the breath.  He reminds us that the breath is what anchors us.  Frightening then to think how far we can drift off course, when the breath is not there to guide us.

When we listen to our breath and become tuned in to it, it can tell us a lot about what is going on in the body.  Our blood pressure and heart rate are difficult to monitor on an ongoing basis.  However, the breath is one indicator we do have of our physiological state.  If we can but hear it.

There is great power in the breath.  If you want to see this for yourself, the next time you are in pain, or you are struggling in the gym, try to actively breathe through it.  Imagine yourself breathing in calm and tranquility and breathing out pain.  It really does work.  Whenever my IBS flairs up and my colon goes into spasm, I employ this technique .  It is the ONLY thing that gives me any relief.  There’s a reason why labouring women are coached so much about breathing.

The weird thing about breathing is, your body knows what to do.  It knows how to breathe.  It is only when the brain gets involved that things get screwed up.

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As I continue my journey towards a healthier, happier self, I am beginning to make a realisation.   Unless I can master my breath, it is all for nought.  Until I get to the stage when inhaling and exhaling come as readily as nature intended, I will never be able to harness my true power.

It’s going to take more than a few therapy sessions to unlearn 37 years of behaviour, but I am determined to try.  Even as I write this, I have noticed my breathing stop completely on more than one occasion.

My fitness journey is not unique.  There have been and will continue to be peaks a valleys.  Times of progress and times of frustration.  Breathing, however, is something that apart from conscious awareness, will take little effort and is bound to yield great rewards.  Be well and don’t forget to breathe xxx

 

Articles

All The Lonely People

In a time when we are more connected than ever before, it is hard to understand why so many of us are experiencing chronic loneliness.  Through social media, email and messaging apps, barely a waking hour goes by when we don’t reach out and touch someone.  Why is it then, that we feel more isolated and alone than at any other stage in our history?

Recent studies have shown that up to 50% of adults report feeling lonely sometimes or always.  When asked the question “how many people truly know you?” many respond with “no-one.”

Researchers, such as Johann Hari and Brene Brown, to name but two, have clearly shown the link between social isolation and depression, anxiety and even addiction.  In Brene’s words, “we are hard wired for connection.”  What is it then that is stopping us from forming and maintaining the types of connections we so desperately need?

Doped on Dopamine:

We have all heard of the hormone dopamine.  Dopamine is often associated with pleasure, however, it is more closely related to the reward center in the brain.  Every time we hear that ping announcing the arrival of a new email, or signifying a “like” has been achieved, our brains receive a little shot of the drug.  It lets us know that something good just happened.  It encourages us to try to do it again.

We chase these little rewards throughout the day.  Often to the extent that we ignore the real, human connections in our lives.  We sacrifice our most sacred relationships to answer the Siren call of our tiny devices.  When we hear the beep, we feel like we have won a prize.  We instantly abandon whatever else is going on to attend to it.  Even though, we know on a rational level that it is most likely spam.  Of all the hundreds of thousands of emails I have received in my life, exactly none of them have been telling me I have won a prize.

A simple way to mitigate this is to simply go through your apps and disable all non critical notifications.  Every single one of them is constantly vying for your attention, so cut them off at the pass.

Set rules for yourself.  No phones in bed is a good place to start.  Some of the most important conversations I have had with my husband have been just before we go to sleep at night.  Sometimes these are about serious topics, but equally important are the silly moments.  The ones when you nearly choke because you are laughing so hard, but can’t remember what was so funny.  These are the moments of real connection.  They seldom take place with a smart phone in hand.

Competitive Disadvantage:

Another unfortunate side effect of living in the digital age is our compulsion to compete.  Anything you can do, I can do better.  As I write this, it is Pancake Tuesday in Ireland.  The day before Lent begins.  Originally it was Shrove Tuesday, the last day of feasting and getting rid of luxuries from the home, before 40 days and nights of fasting.  Now, however, it is national day of showing the world how big and impressive your stacks are.

There are a couple of things that amuse me about this.  (That’s not to say I haven’t done the same myself, I have)  Firstly, pancakes need to be served hot.  Any time you spend faffing around with lighting and filters, will only serve to detract from the overall pancake experience.

Secondly, Pancake Tuesday is such an institution that it can be assumed you have had pancakes, even if you don’t tell me.  I don’t need you to tell me you have brushed your teeth this morning either, I will just give you the benefit of the doubt.

Lastly, does anyone really care?

This is a simple example but I hope it illustrates my point.  We are spending an inordinate amount of time highlighting how amazing our lives are, instead of just living them.  We seem determined to elicit envy from our “friends” at every opportunity.  It’s hardly surprising that in doing so we alienate people and create even more loneliness.

So, the next time you want to show someone how awesome your pancakes are, why don’t you invite them around to try some?

Yes, no and maybe:

I have spoken at length, both on the blog and on the podcast, about how important it is to be able to say no.  We are so overwhelmed with tasks and responsibilities that we barely have time to draw breath.  It’s vital for our well being that we know when to draw the line, or we risk stress, overload and eventual burn out.

However, I fear we are saying no to the wrong things.  We do it automatically without considering the consequences.  Studies have shown that people will only extend an invitation to you seven times.  If you refuse the seventh invitation, they will be unlikely to ask you again.  Let’s face it, nobody is going to keep on putting their hands out to be slapped.

This could be your friends inviting you on a night out, or your colleagues asking you to join them for lunch.  The next time it comes up, before you refuse, ask yourself how you would feel if you weren’t invited.

Most of us have probably experienced the feeling of being left out.  I know I certainly have, and it’s awful.  If this is a situation you want to avoid, try to ensure you don’t unintentionally create it.  Make a habit of at least occasionally saying yes!

The road goes both ways:

I am someone who tries very hard to keep in touch with the people who are important to me.  I make an effort to send a message, suggest an event and generally reach out, especially when I am aware that it has maybe been a while.

Occasionally though, I find myself thinking that perhaps I am not being met half way.  I start feeling like I am doing all the running.  When this happens, I have two choices.  I can either continue to make the effort with that person, or I can disengage and see what happens.

What I decide to do will depend a lot on the person and on the situation.  If they have a lot going on in their life, or if they mean a lot to me, I can usually let it go.   But if I find myself feeling resentful of the un-reciprocated effort, it can be difficult to maintain the relationship.

If you have a person in your life and you are aware that they usually initiate contact, try to buck that trend.  Take action straight away.  When you find yourself thinking about the person, reach out.  If some one is important to you, don’t allow them to drift out of your life from sheer neglect.

I don’t claim to be an expert on avoiding loneliness.  But I am someone who has both experienced and researched it.  As the planet prepares to reach a population of 10 billion, is is astounding to me that we can still feel utterly alone in the world.  Be well, together xxx