the trauma of loneliness — and the hopeful outcome to wellbeing

Loneliness Health

 Openness Vulnerability

By Douglas LaBier

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/douglas-labier/loneliness-health_b_2574810.html?utm_hp_ref=gps-for-the-soul&ir=GPS%20for%20the%20Soul

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A recent psychotherapy patient, Ms. A., tells me that she’s felt lonely throughout her life. Her intimate relationships have been brief; her friends, few. In recent years she’s been suffering from one physical ailment after another. Another patient, Mr. B, has an active social life with friends and business associates, a long-term marriage and an extended family. Despite this socially full life, he complains of feeling lonely “right in the midst of everyone around me.” He, too, suffers from frequent illness.

Some new research finds that loneliness can harm your immune system and set the stage for a range of illness. Of course, our mind/body/spirit is all one. Each “part” affects each other “part,” so that’s no surprise. But there’s a lot more to the story.  People like Ms. A and Mr. B appear different, yet are alike in other ways. That is, some people’s loneliness reflects an absence of positive relationships. That, in turn, may be rooted in long-term emotional issues that interfere with forming and maintaining relationships. Yet others have a full social life but feel lonely anyway. These apparently different situations raise a question: What promotes or creates the conditions for loneliness in today’s society? And, what would help alleviate the painful isolation and disconnection that some feel, regardless of the extent of their social connections? 

The mind/body/spirit unity that’s visible in the findings that loneliness harms your immune system is, itself, embedded within an even larger context: our social and cultural norms, including the values and aspirations we absorb and follow in our relationships, life goals, and careers. This larger context plays a less visible role in why some experience loneliness in their lives, whether they have diminished social skills or maintain socially connected, outward lives.

To explain, first look at what the new research discovered: Conducted at Ohio State University, and summarized in detail here, it found that loneliness, assessed by the UCLA Loneliness Scale, impacts the body like physical stress.  It weakens the immune system, increases sensitivity to physical pain, and creates depression and fatigue. Moreover, it can generate inflammation throughout the body, leading to a range of health risks. In short, feeling lonely creates greater stress just in daily living, which can hurt your immune system.

Some loneliness reflects the residue of trauma or conflict in people’s early attachments to parents or parent figures. But, as a recent study found, those who avoid or are unable to form intimate relationships as adults aren’t necessarily “loners” or innately dysfunctional. Rather they may be trying to fulfill a psychologically healthy desire for validation and affirmation, crucial for positive development. But the absence of that fulfillment in childhood may lead them to seek it inappropriately from prospective partners as adults.  They may become disappointed when they don’t receive this “parenting,” and then withdraw, leaving them lonely and isolated.

The point is that their psychological aim is a positive striving for human connection, though it may remain unconscious and expressed in dysfunctional ways. But similarly, the person who feels lonely despite extensive relationships may also yearn for healthy, authentic intimacy and connection; a sense of being on the same wavelength with others in meaningful relationships. 

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But that may be absent, given the limitations and superficiality of a conventional, successful life, which includes norms of seeking self-worth via money, power and position — external and endless pursuits.

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Add to that the norms of jockeying for control, manipulation and game-playing in intimate relationships. There, we learn to treat relationships as commodities and, in essence, equate love with performance and conquest rather than intimate connection and mutuality.

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All of these social and cultural forces impact one’s psychology.

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For some more sensitive to that impact, they may experience increasing loneliness vs. meaningful connection.

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The problem is that such social conditioning reinforces seeking external validation of self-worth and self-esteem. That sets up an endless quest for “more”:  More power, more material possessions, more recognition from others.

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You then become vulnerable to the anxiety that you will discover you have — or are — “less than” someone else, by those criteria. That’s inevitable.

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And that’s a short step to feeling isolated or lonely, even if you have many social connections.

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What Helps?

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Certainly, if you’re socially isolated, trying to meet new people or learning to improve your social skills might help. But everything that’s external will change and fade with time. Your position, your possessions, your friends and family, even. Identifying with “having” them numbs you to the “completeness” that’s always there, in your inner life.

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Your inner being, your spirit and consciousness is always connected with everything, because it’s a part of everything to begin with.

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Your inner self is the source of true security, well being and self-esteem. And the source of your capacity to build the necessary resilience and actions that provide meaningful connection in all parts of your life, not just to a social network.

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That is, what helps alleviate loneliness is having a larger vision of purpose, an aim for your life that connects you with something larger than just your own self. Something that’s meaningful and engages your soul.

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Meditation can help, here, by restoring and reclaiming awareness of your inner life, that source of “completeness” and wellbeing that’s always there.  Other small acts can help, as well. For example, research finds that exposure to nature, such as a hike through the outdoors, enhances your wellbeing and your capacity for problem-solving. That can help you find new ways to free yourself from loneliness.

Awakening your inner life expands your consciousness from the inside out. That helps you discover a larger vision of purpose, meaning and connection in your life.  We are, after all, fragments of the entire cosmos, and contain everything from the Big Bang within our beings — we who are “intelligent stardust.” Such awareness is a good antidote to feeling lonely — whether you have few human connections or live within the midst of a crowd.

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/01/03/writing-and-eventually-dying-a-good-death-expressing-sharing-love-to-the-end/

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Writing with body and soul, and eventually dying a good death  — expressing & sharing love to the end

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/i-write-to-live-authentically-having-been-is-the-surest-kind-of-being-per-great-sage-viktor-frankl/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/does-your-life-have-purpose/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/randy-pausch-steven-kalas-living-meaningfully/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/harriet-beecher-stowes-prophetic-engine-sage-joan-d-hedrick/

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/01/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying

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Top five regrets of the dying

A nurse has recorded the most common regrets of the dying, and among the top ones is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’. What would your biggest regret be if this was your last day of life?

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Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

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Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”

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Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

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1.   I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”

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2.   I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

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3.   I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

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4.   I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

“Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

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5.   I wish that I had let myself be happier.

“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

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What’s your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tara-brach/compassion_b_2545401.html?utm_hp_ref=gps-for-the-soul&ir=GPS%20for%20the%20Soul

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On Having Compassion for Others:  Learning to See Past the Mask

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Compassion For Others

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My friend Richie and I met when we were juniors in college. A shy, thoughtful African-American man, he was known for carrying his camera everywhere, listening as others poured out their stories to him, and running through the snow wearing gym shorts. We’d lost touch after graduation, yet nearly 15 years later, he called and asked to consult with me on an upcoming visit to Washington, D.C.

Now a photojournalist living in New York, Richie had recently married Carly, a Caucasian woman he’d met at a meditation class, and he wanted to talk with me about her family. “I knew what I was getting into … country club, conservative, the whole nine yards … but I had no idea it would be this hard.”

“From the start,” he told me when we met, “Sharon [his mother-in-law] was dead set against me and Carly getting together.” While Carly’s father seemed willing to support his daughter’s choice, her mother had fought the marriage vehemently. “She warned Carly that we were too different, that we’d end up divorced and miserable. Well,” he said grimly, “we love each other deeply, but she’s succeeding in making us miserable.”

On their third and most recent visit, Sharon had refused to attend a community theater production with them. She later told Carly she couldn’t bear to encounter her friends from the club: “As soon as I’d turn my back, they’d start gossiping about you and Richie.” At dinner, Sharon ignored Richie’s compliments about the salmon, and gave vague, noncommittal responses to his questions about a recent trip to Italy. When Carly confronted her mother privately upstairs, Sharon acknowledged her behavior. “I admit it, I’m being awful. But I can’t help it, Carly. He’s a good person, an intelligent person, but you’re making a terrible mistake.”

Carly wanted to stop visiting — they could just skip Thanksgiving and Christmas, she said — but Richie insisted on hanging in there. “It’s not that I’m trying to martyr myself,” he told me. “Sharon’s a racist, self-centered asshole, and it might do her some good if Carly refused to go home. I’d be gratified. I’m way pissed. But something in me feels like she’s reachable.”

As part of his meditation practice, Richie had recently taken “bodhisattva vows” with his teacher. These express a basic commitment to let whatever arises in our life awaken compassion, and to dedicate ourselves to actively bringing this compassion to all beings. For Richie, these vows had a very specific meaning. “I don’t want to give up on anyone, give up on who they can be,” he told me. But Richie knew that before he could approach Sharon, he needed to connect with his own anger and what was behind it.

“That’s what I wanted us to focus on, Tara,” he said. “I wouldn’t be so pissed if I didn’t feel insecure. It’s that basic issue of being worthy — she’s telling me I’m not worthy enough for her daughter.”

“Is that feeling familiar?” I asked.

“Oh yeah. This has been the kind of thing I’ve told myself ever since my dad left. Back then it was that I’m not enough to make my mom happy.” He sat quietly for a few moments then went on. “I thought I was supposed to fill his shoes and I couldn’t. She was always depressed, always anxious.”

Richie sat back in the chair, deflated. “It’s always this same feeling … that I’m the kid who can’t make the grade, who doesn’t deserve good things.  And it didn’t help going to that vanilla college of ours…” he flashed me a smile, “or working in a white profession. I know this unworthiness thing’s in the culture, Tara … But that kid still feels like he’s young, and just not cutting it.”

“As you pay attention, can you sense what that kid who feels unworthy most wants from you?”

He was quiet, then nodded. “He just wants me to see him, to notice him and to be kind.”

“What happens if you offer your kindness inward?” I asked. For a few minutes Richie sat silently, then said: “I guess this part of me needs some reassurance, some care. Just now I felt like I was looking through a camera at this kid who was failing at an impossible task. There’s no way he could make things okay for his mother.”

We talked about their upcoming Thanksgiving visit, and how Sharon might activate his insecurities. Richie came up with a plan: “I’m bringing my camera. I’ll keep my eye on the kid inside, and on Sharon, both of us with kindness.”

I heard from Richie again right after Thanksgiving weekend. Sharon had treated him with polite formality — everyone else was family, he was a guest. “But I kept imagining I was looking at her through a camera viewfinder,” he told me, “and I saw she was in pain. Behind that coldness was a scared, tight heart.” He had a freeing realization: “It isn’t really me she’s afraid of. It’s of Carly being unhappy.”

A day or so later he emailed me two standout photos, both of Sharon. Carly’s sister had just had a baby, and he’d caught Sharon cradling her new granddaughter, looking down adoringly at the infant. The other was of a playful moment when her husband had pulled her down to sit with him and she’d toppled over on him. Richie took the shot just as they were looking at each other and laughing.

Then came Christmas. Early on Christmas Eve, Carly’s dad (playing Santa) placed two boxes in front of Richie. Sharon had ordered some socks for him online (too large) and had wrapped a box of chocolates (he rarely ate sugar). Sometime later, Sharon opened her gift from Richie. She found the two photos he’d taken weeks earlier, simply and elegantly framed. Sharon started trembling, then sobbing. Her husband and Carly came over to see what was wrong. There were the pictures of Sharon with her granddaughter and her husband, looking radiant, loving, and happy. And here she was weeping. When she calmed down, she still couldn’t speak and she waved everyone on to continue the gift-giving.

Richie had truly “seen” Sharon — her vulnerability and spirit, and he’d expressed his care by mirroring her goodness. It took another year and a half for her to tell him what those gifts had meant to her, and to apologize. But because he hadn’t given up on her, a thaw had begun. She too was able to see more truly, and come home to her heart. The following evening Carly’s sister asked Richie for a lesson in swing dancing, and he showed her some steps to the jazz music on his iPod. She caught on quickly, and the others applauded as she and Richie spun happily around the living room. Carly glanced over at her mom, who was standing behind the others in the doorway. She was watching with a slight smile, her eyes wet with tears.

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/judy-kuriansky-phd/broken-heart-valentines-day_b_2564549.html?utm_hp_ref=gps-for-the-soul&ir=GPS%20for%20the%20Soul

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Hope for Broken Hearts on Valentine’s Day: Prepare Early to Prevent Self-Pity

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On Valentine’s Day, lovers celebrate, but those who don’t have a lover suffer. Like James, whose cab I got into one evening.

We passed a sign advertising chocolates; he groaned, and I asked why. “Everybody’s gearing up for Valentine’s Day. Look at all those rows of cards with blazing red hearts in Duane Reade,” he said. “I hate the day.” 

“Oh dear,” I said. “What can you do to make it better?”

“Nothing,” he murmured. “Maybe make some money.”

Business is bad in his other job, the travel agency business, since domestic travel offers no commission and international travel is down.  Rent in Queens is up, and so is his car insurance. “What would make you happy? What do you wish for?” I asked.

“I would have wished for a girlfriend, but when I had one I was so unhappy that now I think it’s better to be single.”      
“What happened that hurt you?”  I asked.
“I was seeing this girl until last May,” he explained.  “She moved in with me with her three kids and I was taking care of them and paying all her bills.  Then I found out she cheated on me.  Obviously she didn’t love me and was just using me.  Now she’s calling me for three days and wants me back, but I don’t want to take her back.”

Continuing, he exclaimed, “I think there should be a broken hearts day.”

What a great idea! 

Hence, my advice:

Have your own Broken Hearts Day and make a plan to get together with others who dread the day. Go to a restaurant and purge your love problems. Better yet, have a Broken Hearts party. Having a formal day with a label protects you from feeling like a Scrooge on Valentine’s Day.  Knowing you’re not alone and getting support eases your ego that’s been bruised and feels unlovable.
To heal a broken heart, here’s what to do:      
Instead of a having pity party, celebrate.  Use one of my favorite techniques called paradoxical intention, where you welcome the very opposite of what you think you want.  Jump up and down, dance and sing “good riddance to bad rubbish,” regarding that person who didn’t appreciate you anyway.
Ask friends to re-inflate your ego.  Since rejected ones may get down on themselves, get people who do appreciate you to remind you of all your wonderful qualities.
Get friends to take your side.  On the high road, no one is really right or wrong, but I’m not against the low road when you’re smarting from rejection.  It feels better to be told that the rejector is a rat, and you’re an angel.     
Convince yourself it’s for the best.  This is not fooling yourself, it’s true:  Trust that the universe has something better in store and someone else is better suited for you.
Identify qualities that you miss in the ex and find a substitute.  If you liked jogging together, find another running partner. If you enjoyed talking about architecture, who else has that interest?  
Take friends to your old haunts.  Prevent nagging memories of where you and your ex hung out by taking a friend to those places to form new associations.
See the flaws.  When someone exits our life, we tend to over-idealize how wonderful that person is. Resist imbuing an ex with perfection; instead, make a realistic assessment.    
Notice what you can do better next time.  Accept your responsibility in the breakup, not to blame yourself, but to learn. Were you smothering? Did you expect too much?  What would you like to change in yourself or your next relationship?   
Reaffirm that you deserve to be treated well.  Consider how you would treat a child or best friend and be as loving, protective, and reassuring to yourself. 
Indulge your pleasures.  Make a list of things that make you feel good (listening to music, getting a massage) and treat yourself.
Resist doomsaying.  Rejected exes have the tendency to say, as James did, “I’m giving up relationships,” or “Forget dating, I’m better off alone.”  Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and start all over again.  Relationships enrich your life.  Despite the pain, there’s plenty of pleasure. 

The bottom line is: love yourself. 
James liked the advice. “I have to love myself,” he told me.  “When I paid all my ex-girlfriend’s bills, I forgot about paying mine, and then I got into trouble.  I have to think about me.”
“You’re a nice guy,” I said, punching in the 30 percent tip on the taxi credit card screen. He thanked me profusely.
“What will you do with it, to do something nice for yourself for Broken Hearts Day?” I asked James.

“Probably get myself a nice shirt.” He glanced at me, smiling.

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nicole-glassman/emotional-wellness_b_2537424.html

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The True Meaning of Success

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Your heart is racing and the sounds of your brain are making sleep impossible. The stress has made your stomach churn and the acid has made you nauseous. The clock reads 2 a.m., then 4 a.m., and finally your alarm goes off. You wake feeling hung over, yet you haven’t had a drink.

Your eyes are barely open and you immediately check your email. The tasks for the day are endless, and your goals seem insurmountable. You haven’t spoken to your friends in weeks, and you know you are forgetting someone’s birthday but your brain is too full to remember. You work day and night, and rarely see the sunlight. And although you make a great salary and have a high-powered position, your life is full of tasks, goals and responsibilities. You can’t remember the last time you laughed, relaxed or even smiled. You can’t recall the last time you were happy, either. How much are you willing to sacrifice for “success”?

“Where has the time gone?” “There aren’t enough hours in the day.” These are statements that we struggle with daily. Yet we rarely make changes to our lives or our schedules to allow for life’s pleasures. We are so caught up in achieving that we forget to savor, breathe and recognize the present moment. We constantly live in the future, and suffer as a result.

I own a holistic health practice and I help people to find balance in their health and in their personal lives. I pride myself on living according to my teachings. But last week I lost my footing and I, too, fell prey to the “American model of success.” I decided to launch several new exciting ventures for 2013 and the steps that needed to be taken seemed overwhelming. In this case, I felt that I needed to have all of the steps figured out immediately, and I couldn’t sleep or stop until I did. I was emailing at all hours, and I was constantly anxious. My sleep suffered, I wasn’t returning phone calls, I canceled many plans and I missed my favorite yoga class.

The final straw came when I realized these projects were supposed to be exciting. After all, they were a part of my dream and my vision board. But stress was a pin, deflating the fun right out of my happy helium balloon.
How do you define success? Is it a particular job or position? Is it a certain style of living? Is it a relationship? Is it monetary? For many Americans, success means, “overworked, sad and frustrated.” It means an unhealthy lifestyle, a cynical attitude and an unattainable goal. It comes with a price; as we are working at warp speed to live up to a certain potential, life is passing us by.

Why do we allow this? We might believe that we should have achieved a particular goal by an exact time period, or maybe we are comparing ourselves to others. Or perhaps we don’t trust the process and we are rushing life to attain a goal. We live every day on a hamster wheel and we have no idea how to get off.

But we can change our lives. First, by asking what success truly means. What would really make you happy? Maybe right now it is a hug or a belly laugh. Maybe it is a good night’s sleep. Maybe it is a simple pleasure — one without sacrifice. Maybe it is about really seeing and experiencing every hour of the day and spending a few minutes in the sunshine. Maybe it isn’t about huge goals, but about small steps that allow you to feel present.

So where do you start? Start by making time to breathe. Redefine balance for yourself. Chew your food and take better care of your body. Cherish the time you have with loved ones. Choose to dance, sing or be still. Rediscover your smile. Use your creativity and listen to your voice. Enjoy a hobby. Treat your body and your soul like sacred property and treasure every moment you have. Live life a little slower and learn to feel again.

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4 Responses to the trauma of loneliness — and the hopeful outcome to wellbeing

  1. Pingback: If we’re going to write, it is because we have a desire to express ourselves, even if we don’t quite understand what we wish to say. It might just be an inner yearning, but by making the choice to engage in the process rather than the result, our work

  2. Pingback: If we’re going to write, it is because we have a desire to express ourselves, even if we don’t quite understand what we wish to say. It might just be an inner yearning, but by making the choice to engage in the process rather than the result, our work

  3. Pingback: If we’re going to write, it is because we have a desire to express ourselves, even if we don’t quite understand what we wish to say. It might just be an inner yearning, but by making the choice to engage in the process rather than the result, our work

  4. Pingback: If we’re going to write, it is because we have a desire to express ourselves, even if we don’t quite understand what we wish to say. It might just be an inner yearning, but by making the choice to engage in the process rather than the result, our work

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