Many of my patients are single. Many of them are comfortable in their current lives, but a much larger proportion are alone by circumstance, and find it difficult if not paralyzing to try to change. While there are many facets of this situation, my specific interest is in the health effects of being alone.
We are biologically wired to be with people. Our physical survival depends on our being a part of a group, a community, a society. In TCM theory, we associate loneliness, difficulty in forming relationships, reduced interaction with others, with the Lung and related systems. One TCM aspect of the Lung system corresponds to the immune system in modern health theory.
As our social circles shrink in size, and our interactions with others dwindle, it is not unusual to see our health become more precarious. It becomes particularly apparent when those who describe themselves as introverts or those living in isolated communities suffer the loss of a driver’s license, the closing of a community gathering place, the death of a partner, the pandemic shutdown. It is prevalent in those who are sidelined by the breakneck speed of technological changes in daily business and communication, the multitudes who have been molded by computer algorithms to depend on the opinions of those who care nothing for us and to reject those who genuinely care for us. It is a hallmark of the forces that have changed us from the small independent intergenerational tribes from which we evolved into the “advanced” civilization in which millions of us will never know most of the people who live within a mile of us.
Although this role of human connection in our health is readily apparent, I did not see any avenue to address it in my work. Then I attended an event with an activity club in Vancouver. Members could both participate in and organize an activity, such as a dinner for half a dozen people to sailboat cruises for 30 people, and countless others. Some of the people got to know each other very well, some got involved in activities that were completely new to them with very little effort, some simply tried out things without committing. Then, I learned about an Ottawa church group that formed to provide a similar venue for its many single members. Activities included nature walks, tourist outings, book clubs, and restaurant sampling. Here in Regina, I learned about a food, travel, sport and social club with much the same objectives.
Finding out that some people are already organizing such groups is a great inspiration to me. Especially as I no longer feel pressure to organize something (at least not yet). Nevertheless, I still entertain the idea of following up on how increasing social contact can benefit our health.
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