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Description: Try and design a study that would not just look at but actually make a difference in people’s lives using the following finding from other research studies: Social isolation and loneliness is harmful to you not just in terms of your social wellbeing but also in terms of your physical health AND your longevity. Your intervention cannot involve therapy (helpful but time consuming and expensive) nor can it involve even telling people that you are trying to help them become more socially engaged and less lonely (lonely people do not react well to “get more social” intervention attempts). Once you have your thoughts in order on this question read the article linked below to see how some researchers developed an app to address just this question.

Source: Loneliness Is Bad for Your Health. An App May Help Gretchen Reynolds, Well, The New York Times.

Date: February 22, 2019

Photo Credit: Celia Jacobs, The New York Times.

Article Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/20/well/mind/loneliness-is-bad-for-your-health-an-app-may-help.html

So, receiving stress reduction and coping suggestions does not help and neither does mindfulness meditation BUT mindfulness meditation and “equanimity” or being consciously and verbally attentive to one’s sensations increased sociability AND decreased feeling of loneliness. What is equanimity? It is defined as mental calmness, composure and evenness of temper and like mindfulness it can be linked to Buddhist thinking and practices. In essence, being at peace with yourself, it is argued, makes you less self-critical and, as a result, more open to social connection. Consciously acknowledging your perceptions and feelings out loud was used as the operationalization of equanimity in the study discussed in the article linked above and it seemed to make a difference to those who practiced it compared to the simple stress advice and just mindfulness medication group. This sort of “search for the active ingredient(s)” approach to research can be quite illuminating especially when it suggests things we might not have come up with based on our current views of or assumptions about the world and how it works. Want more “how to” information about equanimity? Try the two links down at the bottom of the References list below.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How might loneliness and stress be related?
  2. What is equanimity and how might it be related to loneliness and stress?
  3. What might we do to expand on our “search for active ingredients” in relation to loneliness and stress ?

References (Read Further):

Lindsay, E. K., Young, S., Brown, K. W., Smyth, J. M., & Creswell, J. D. (2019). Mindfulness training reduces loneliness and increases social contact in a randomized controlled trial. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201813588.

Cacioppo, S., Grippo, A. J., London, S., Goossens, L., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2015). Loneliness: Clinical import and interventions. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2), 238-249. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4391342/

Rosenstreich, E., & Margalit, M. (2015). Loneliness, mindfulness, and academic achievements: A moderation effect among first-year college students. The Open Psychology Journal, 8(1).

https://benthamopen.com/contents/pdf/TOPSYJ/TOPSYJ-8-138.pdf

Cacioppo, J. T., & Cacioppo, S. (2018). The growing problem of loneliness. The Lancet, 391(10119), 426. https://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736(18)30142-9.pdf

Desbordes, G., Gard, T., Hoge, E. A., Hölzel, B. K., Kerr, C., Lazar, S. W., … & Vago, D. R. (2015). Moving beyond mindfulness: defining equanimity as an outcome measure in meditation and contemplative research. Mindfulness, 6(2), 356-372. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4350240/

Kraus, S., & Sears, S. (2009). Measuring the immeasurables: Development and initial validation of the Self-Other Four Immeasurables (SOFI) scale based on Buddhist teachings on loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Social Indicators Research, 92(1), 169. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.362.7145&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Equanimity Links:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/turning-straw-gold/201105/how-cultivate-equanimity-regardless-your-circumstances

https://jackkornfield.com/meditation-equanimity/

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