Our nation’s overall wellbeing has declined over the last 12 months, according to the second annual Global Wellbeing Survey from lululemon, which saw Australia rank 62 in 2022 and 65 in 2021. The report defined wellbeing as feeling confident in oneself, managing stress effectively and having enough energy to accomplish daily tasks, among other factors.
“As we continue to navigate these challenging times, our second Global Wellbeing Survey shows that people are using important coping mechanisms to improve their mental health yet are yearning for more connection,” says Calvin McDonald, CEO of Lululemon.
So, despite how connected we now all are, why are Australians feeling lonelier than ever before? Clinical psychologist and researcher Dr Zac Seidler says the problem lies in us not being able to move past the idea that the promise of broad, surface-level connection actually fulfills our innate human desire for a sense of belonging.
“I’m not at all surprised that people out there are struggling,” he says. “Just because you suddenly have access to thousands of ‘friends’ thanks to technological advancement, doesn’t speak to the quality of those connections. We also know that the ups and downs of seeking likes and views can cause serious stress for people.”
Ahead, Dr Seidler shares five things you can do to combat loneliness and feel more connected.
Cut Down on Your Social Media Time
“It’s always important to take a step back and reflect on the utility of this technology. What are its benefits, what can it provide for you and when do we cross the line into it being harmful? Understanding the type of content we’re being fed and linking it with how you feel is really important.
“The promise of ‘more’, whether it be more friends, more likes, more views, can move us further away from meaningful connection and instead, we find ourselves striving for a type of social perfection, which we know is unattainable.
“Without the comfort to feel like we can share our true selves, in their honest, vulnerable and raw truth online, the more we will suffer with a feeling that we are ‘not enough’, and that can trigger common experiences of depression and anxiety.
“There’s also no doubt that plenty of us are addicted to our phones. It’s important to check in with ourselves and realise when we’re not feeling in control of our trigger-happy fingers. If you reduce the unnecessary time on social media when you can feel it taking control and repurpose it into time to reach out and check in on friends, you’ll have the best shot at combatting loneliness.”
Be Social IRL
“Be purposeful and mindful in how you use social media. It can be greatly empowering when you are in control, but when you feel it pulling you in the wrong direction, having that ability to call it and seek out some ‘IRL’ interaction will never go astray. There is endless science to back up the power of in person contact, from hugs and physical touch to eye-contact and laughing with friends, never underestimate it.”
Still Use Social Media to Keep in Touch
“Social media has provided incredible opportunities for us to connect online, it’s shrunk the globe and brought long-lost schoolmates and distant relatives together. What we know about the benefits of social media is that it’s great to enhance your existing friendships and have touchpoints with people you’ve known for a while but may not be able to see as much as you’d like. It’s also the best way to connect with that new buddy you met on a train in Sri Lanka to find a way to see them again.
“We know that those in the older generations use social media as a connecting tool, whereas young people understandably feel overwhelmed by the expectations it puts on them, making them more prone to mental health difficulties in comparison. If we can start to purposefully control and limit the role of social media in our lives, we can reap the benefits, while reducing the impact of FOMO, surface-level connection or ideas that our lives are ‘not good enough’.”
“Loneliness is a feeling made exponentially worse by feelings of self-hatred and the belief that there is something wrong with us. They aren’t mutually exclusive, so I always make sure to reinforce the importance of being kind to yourself in those moments of disconnection and loneliness.
“The best way out of that dark place is to remember that you’re worthy, that people love you and that most importantly, it’ll pass.”
Live More in the Present Moment
“Being present doesn’t require you to switch everything off and go and hide in a cave to meditate for hours on end. It’s a grounding practice to remind yourself of where you are, what you’ve got and where you’re going.
“Loneliness sucks the joy out of the mundane, the everyday, and we often feel that there’s nothing around us worth putting time or energy into. When we’re truly present, we realise that we can enjoy our company by attending to the beauty that’s all around us, from a solo hike in the wilderness to reading a book in the sun.”