This month: Loneliness Awareness Month

Cathy Brownfield

During the pandemic, just about everyone seems to have complained about the social isolation. Loneliness and alone are not the same thing. And, as it turns out, loneliness is the opposite today of what the ancient philosophers defined it. The bottom line is that we are social creatures and isolation is not a good thing for us. Too much of anything is not a good thing.

            It was interesting to read that the ancients considered loneliness a time when they turned from their regular daily life, of getting ahead, to a time of isolation, which for them was time spent meditating, thinking and working on their spiritual health.

            I call my alone time “Cathy time.” It has been hard won. You understand hard won because you’ve been there yourself. Spending a little time alone gives you the space you need to be in tune with yourself, to understand your Self and place in your little corner of the world, who you are. But too much alone time can have negative effects. Loneliness from isolation is more than just an emotional issue, say the experts. It can have physical effects on your well-being. Here are a few findings about the effects of loneliness and isolation, per the Idaho Commission on Aging:

  • 50 percent increase in risk of dementia.
  • Increased risk of premature death similar to the impact of smoking.
  • Obesity and sedentary lifestyle.
  • 29 percent increased risk of heart disease.
  • 32 percent increased risk of stroke.
  • Higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.

Cited AARP research states that social isolation and loneliness costs Medicare $6.7 billion per year for this “epidemic.”

But it is not just about seniors. “Young adults are twice as likely to be lonely than Seniors.” It is important for everyone to be active and connected.

The Ohio Department on Aging urges activity and connection with other people. Take Fido walking. It will be good for your canine companion as well as for you. Chat with your neighbor over the fence. Yoga and meditation, bicycling, gardening, all good activities. Talking on the phone, meeting the gang at the coffee shop to visit. Card club, service organizations welcome new members who want to volunteer in the community. There are so many possibilities that begin with that first step.

My daughters and I are about to celebrate the first anniversary of our monthly family book club. There is discussion about a field trip to a 32-room book store. You get a map when you go in. Um … I could get lost in a place like that. So many good books, so little time to read them all!

Then there are the pets. If you are a fur baby lover, a pet can be a wonderful companion. My Charlie died before Christmas. We walked twice or three times a day. He belonged to me and I belonged to him and we both knew it. Soul mates, maybe. Love waiting for me to walk through the door. And still miss those toenails clicking across the hardwood floor. For the time being, our daughters’ fur babies are filling the void. I’m not quite ready for another dog. My heart belongs to Charlie, but I highly recommend canine companionship if you are willing to consistently and kindly put in time to the love and care of a pet.

Challenging times have and are trying all of us. We need all the positives we can get. We need family and friends and community. We are in this together, this wild journey called life.

For more information about Family Recovery Center’s programs and services for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or email Visit the website at You can find Family Recovery Center at Facebook. FRC is funded in part by the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.