Written by : Transcript – Overcoming Loneliness With Dr. Randall Hansen 

Transcript – Overcoming Loneliness With Dr. Randall Hansen

Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Overcoming Loneliness With Dr. Randall Hansen

[INTRODUCTION]

 

[0:00:01] PF: Thank you for joining us for episode 429 of Live Happy Now. We know that loneliness is a huge problem in today’s world, and this week we’re learning what we can do about it. I’m your host, Paula Felps, and this week I’m sitting down with Dr. Randall Hansen, an author, educator, and advocate for deep healing. His mission is to help others understand and heal from the trauma in their lives. In the wake of the pandemic, he is one of many thought leaders who are concerned about what loneliness and isolation are doing to us. He’s here to talk about the dangers of loneliness, what’s causing it, and most importantly, what we can do about it. Let’s have a listen.

 

[EPISODE]

 

[0:00:41] PF: Randall, thank you so much for joining me on Live Happy Now.

 

[0:00:45] RH: Paula, I’m very excited to join you on a – to discuss a very important topic today.

 

[0:00:50] PF: Yeah. You and I are having this conversation, because of something that you wrote about loneliness. I follow you on LinkedIn, and you wrote a post that really spoke to me, because there’s so much information coming out right now about how deadly isolation and loneliness are. It’s just continuing to grow. It’s like, even though we know what a problem it is, it’s getting worse. I guess to start, tell me why it was so important for you to write that post, because you really took a deep dive into what it’s doing to us.

 

[0:01:18] RH: I’ve just seen too many people affected by it. I have a good friend who’s a caretaker for a disabled brother and pre-COVID. He was already self-isolating as often caregivers do, because they have to spend their whole time with the person they’re taking care of, but then with the pandemic, he just became further isolated, and I could actually see, I mean, not be, but I could see his brain changing in the sense of he was just becoming more pessimistic.

 

He’s a single guy, he wants to have a family. So, he just becoming more and more isolated and his attitude is just become more and more pessimistic, because we’ve actually seen, and this is part of my deep dive, but we’ve actually seen scientific studies and show that loneliness changes the format of our brain. It actually is almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy if we don’t make changes, that the loneliness will actually, almost keep feeding itself and making it a downward spiral that will make it even harder for us to get out of.

 

[0:02:29] PF: Is it similar to depression, where once you have depression, you can’t just like snap yourself out of it and it keeps getting worse? As you said, a downward spiral, does loneliness make you continue to self-isolate?

 

[0:02:42] RH: Bizarrely, it does. I mean, that’s the crazy part of this thing. We have mechanisms that we think are designed to increase or decrease the loneliness, increase our connectivity like social media, but we’re finding out now that social media is actually more isolating, because we have this comparison syndrome where we’re looking, “Oh, look at all our friends who are doing these exciting lives who are leading and I’m stuck at home with by myself.” So that becomes this thing. Then also, or, “Oh, look at my friend has 10,000 likes and I have one like. I’m not loved. I’m not appreciated.” So social media which is supposed to bring us together is actually more isolating. So, yeah, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy that way.

 

[0:03:30] PF: I want to ask you about social media, because you can create some guidelines at some point to make it a healthy experience for you by like, limiting your time and maybe monitoring who you’re following and what you’re doing. What are some of the ways that you recommend that we can use social media to cure our loneliness and not make it worse? Because I’ll say, I’ve got a relative who’s, she’s in her 80s, she’s in a nursing home. I don’t know what she would do without social media. She uses it in that right way. She stays in touch with all her nieces and nephews. Tell us how to do this the right way.

 

[0:04:05] RH: Yeah. I think especially for, I mean, again, that’s what social media is all about for the isolated people, for rural people that are disconnected from friends and family that this is a chance just like FaceTime, or Zooms, or something like that. The same thing. We can connect face to face, but – so that is definitely a positive thing, but it hit me last year. I was just having this quiet meditation and it really hit me the strong, especially about Facebook, which a friend of mine calls fake book.

 

[0:04:37] PF: Yeah.

 

[0:04:38] RH: I’ll come back to that in a second, but it just came back to me that so much of this doesn’t matter. My rule would be, as long as you’re not putting all your focus, emphasis on social media, that’s number one. Definitely, limit the amount of time you spend and look at what your goal is. If your goal is something like, this grandmother that’s trying to just want to connect with friends and family, maybe share the memories. I have some older relatives that are now going through their photo albums and posting old black and whites and it’s awesome. Yeah, that’s the part that’s a good part of social media, but as soon as we start comparing ourselves to others.

 

If we’re looking at social media just to look at others and keep in contact, that’s great, but if we’re posting, hoping to get 100 likes, or 1000 likes, or 10,000 likes and we’re going to be probably setting ourselves up for disappointment. I think the key is just expectations, what’s our intention with social media. I think each social media is different, like Facebook, I think is perfect for family and friends. LinkedIn’s you and I have talked about is wonderful for professional connections. I love that aspect. You and I wouldn’t be talking otherwise.

 

[0:05:52] PF: Exactly, yeah.

 

[0:05:54] RH: Then Instagram, I use Instagram just for photos. I just love photos. So, that’s a different vibe in all of them.

 

[0:06:00] PF: How important could it be then to set an intention each time you’re going to use social media? Would that be a good way to start building a healthier practice with it?

 

[0:06:10] RH: Yes. I think that’s an extremely good idea. You can, you can also be honest for yourself and just try to monitor it, but of course, you can also get an app if you’re doing it on your phone and watch your screen time that way. The honor system says, “Oh, I’ll only be on social media for an hour.” But then you have 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there.

 

[0:06:32] PF: Right.

 

[0:06:32] RH: All of a sudden, five hours, not one hour. So, having some device that maybe tracks you at least in the beginning might be another way to keep yourself a little more honest with it, too, if your intention is just to keep to maybe an hour a day or something like that.

 

[0:06:46] PF: Right. Right. We know that beyond social media, there’s other things attributing to our loneliness. But first, I do want to – you brought up a great point. That is the difference between loneliness and solitude.

 

[0:06:59] RH: Yeah.

 

[0:06:59] PF: Can you tell us about that distinction? Because I think this is a really important thing to think about.

 

[0:07:04] RH: Yeah. I think solitude can be so life enhancing, so soul searching. So, that’s not – if we seek out solitude and I’ll give you an example. I’ve gone on a healing journey and my best modality for healing is nature. I instill the day it is. But I live, you can see behind me, I live on this, very gratefully, on a little hilltop above a lake. I walk this property almost daily. Anyway, but my healing journey in nature, I was alone for about five years in nature. Just rediscovering myself and trying to get rid of my ego and then deal with my traumas. I was alone in that process, but I was also in a community of other forest owners. We talked about how to manage our forest and best techniques and things like that.

 

I was still in a – I was in solitude for my healing journey, but I had a community around me that supported me. The difference in loneliness is a sense of isolation, that social pain, that people don’t care about you, and you’re not connected, and you’re alone. Where solitude is seeking that solitude for some kind of purpose, typically self-enhancing, educational learning process. That’s a big difference. They can seem similar, but quite different purposes involved.

 

[0:08:46] PF: Right. You can be lonely even when you’re in a sea of people.

 

[0:08:50] RH: Yes.

 

[0:08:51] PF: It doesn’t –

 

[0:08:53] RH: Yeah. My other perfect example is when I was in freshman in college. I picked the wrong college. I was completely, lonely, isolated in a sea of thousands of other people around me. All these students were around me, but I wasn’t connected to any of them. Yeah, that’s the perfect example. We could live in a city with a million people and still be lonely. Yeah.

 

[0:09:21] PF: Yeah. It’s really important then to have community and you talk about that. Explain to us why community is so important. Especially now, it’s even more so in this post pandemic world. Can you address that for me, please?

 

[0:09:34] RH: Yeah. Well, I think let me just address the pandemic for a second too, because I think my wife and I, my partner and I, we talk about how we are the 1% in the middle. It seemed like everyone else is on the extremes. I think the pandemic – before the pandemic, we had some of that, but I think since the pandemic, we’ve had this splintering so much so that almost any issue seems to be political if you want to make it so. To me, it’s so important to find community that aligns with your values.

 

I think in today’s world, it’s a lot harder, because a subject like dogs, well, there’s no political aspect of dogs, but someone’s going to find something like, the dog food, you give your dog. Whatever. I mean, it’s just –

 

[0:10:24] PF: Right. There’s always going to be a way to find that fault.

 

[0:10:28] RH: Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s community, because it’s so blindered these days. It’s so important to find people that support you, support your values. You don’t have to support all your values or be 100% aligned with you. It’s pretty rare to find someone like that. As long as there are maybe 75%, because you want these people to be able to agree with you, uplift you and you’d be able to uplift them at the same time, because again, communities is a back and forth street.

 

[0:10:57] PF: It’s also important to be able to realize that they can have different views.

 

[0:11:02] RH: Yeah.

 

[0:11:03] PF: I don’t need to jettison them from my lives. I’ve seen people really cut off some longstanding friendships, because of political, or social beliefs. It’s to me very sad, because you’re throwing out, talk about throwing out the baby with a bathwater. There’s so much more than what your, say your political beliefs are.

 

[0:11:23] RH: Yeah. Yeah, I have a friend who is completely opposite me about the pandemic and all things are about it. I could have easily written him off. He could have written me off, but there are so many other aspects of that relationship of that friendship that don’t deal with that one little subject. I know the pandemic is a massive one, but it doesn’t have to be. Yeah, I work around – you find to work around for those things, because we’re all multifaceted. We’re not – I can’t imagine one person that’s all about just one topic and that’s it.

 

Yeah. So, save some of those friendships. That’s one of my things is if you’re lonely and you’re feeling like you’re isolated and you want to move ahead, maybe go back and look at some of those friendships that maybe got dissolved in the last three or four years and see if there’s a way to resolve them. I think we have a fear of rejection. I can tell you when I’ve reached out to a few people that I rationally did something wrong and I apologized or I just, depending if I did it wrong, or if I just reached out to them and said, “Hey, can we – I really miss you. Can we reconnect and see what’s going on?” All those were positive. I didn’t have one bad experience with that.

 

One didn’t take off back to the friendship, but that was fine. He didn’t say – he didn’t yell at me or anything like that, but just, “Yeah, I moved on.” But yeah. I mean, I think many people have gone through their contact list and said, “Oh, no they voted for that person. Nope.” Or, “They did that there in the pandemic. Nope. Gone.” But now where we have so many other qualities to us.

 

[0:13:07] PF: That’s it. Yeah. If you can really start looking for what you have in common with people. I moved out to an area where I will have less in common with the people than I did when I lived in downtown Nashville. That’s been very key for me, is not focusing on the differences is looking at where do we find this common ground? Now, frankly, we have a swimming pool. For them, that’s our common ground. They’re like, “You have a pool? I like to swim.” I know, but you do need to look for things that, places where you can connect instead of being so quick to say like, “No, they’re not right for me.”

 

[0:13:41] RH: Yeah. Yeah. I just think it’s so many opportunities. It’s a good way to actually grow, because if you lean into some of that, just comfort like, “Oh, I don’t know if I like that, their beliefs or their whatever.” But if you lean into a little bit you might even learn something. “Oh, I didn’t know about that.” So, it can be a positive. Even if you don’t become a friend with those people, you can still become a positive learning experience to grow your own knowledge about other things.

 

[0:14:07] PF: Yeah. It’s a good opportunity to find out why someone thinks that way.

 

[0:14:11] RH: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly.

 

[0:14:13] PF: That will blow your mind sometimes.

 

[0:14:15] RH: Yeah. Many times, it will. Again, The Four Agreements, great book, real short, it’s a tiny book, but one of them is don’t make assumptions, but we do it all the time.

 

[0:14:25] PF: Right.

 

[0:14:26] RH: That person [inaudible 00:14:26]. Oh, they must be Irish or whatever. Whatever, but who knows, they just like green. Yeah, we need to get beyond our assumptions sometime.

 

[0:14:36] PF: We do have this loneliness epidemic. What is really like the cause of the loneliness epidemic? Is it just so many different things or what’s going on?

 

[0:14:44] RH: That’s really a good question. I’ve seen so many studies on impact of loneliness. We even have the search in general, released a report about a month or two ago about how dangerous loneliness is and more dangerous than almost a pack a day cigarette smoking issue. We know how dangerous cigarette smoking is. It leads to stress eating, further isolation, depression, self-medicating, all these things. I think it’s just a tipping point. I was just having a discussion with a psychologist this morning in Ireland, of all places. She was saying that we have just gotten to this point where we are so, it’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy that technology is supposed to make things easier. It’s isolated us.

 

The pandemic, illness and health, sometimes brings it together, but because, again, for whatever reasons, the reaction to the pandemic and all that became so political. Then from the pandemic, we also had the self-isolate. I have a brother who is still self-isolating, because he has just gotten into that. Again, it’s almost like a – again, I don’t want to label this like a, in terms of a medical diagnosis, but it’s almost a little bit like OCD, where OCD is this loop that you can’t get out of. So, it’s a spot loop until your brain fixes it.

 

I think lonely, we’re seeing loneliness is almost something similar to that. So, for my brother, who, yes, he can travel now, he wanted to travel to Europe and he couldn’t, because of the pandemic and the travel restrictions. Yet, he still hasn’t left his house. I think there is a self-fulfilling aspect of it. Then the work from home is the other component to this. Maybe we all didn’t have the greatest co-workers, but there’s a certain human connection we have when we go into work and meet people. “Hey, how are you? How was your weekend? Catch the big game.” Whatever. There’s some connection going on there.

 

Now, I mean, we still have that with zooms and things like that, but it’s just not the same or you don’t have that –

 

[0:17:10] PF: There’s nothing like face-to-face. Yeah.

 

[0:17:11] RH: Person sitting next to you. Yeah. Yeah. It changes you.

 

[0:17:16] PF: What can we do if we’re out and we’re in the world and we’re feeling good about things, what can we do to help people who are suffering from loneliness? Because it’s, as you said, it becomes this vicious circle for them. It’s not something it seems they can pull themselves out of. How do we help people who are going through this?

 

[0:17:35] RH: I love it. Two aspects. Number one, of course, first, I love that those who are doing better should always be trying to help others. I love that. Thank you for that, Paula. It’s a beautiful message. I think the key is awareness. Look around to the people in your circle. Who haven’t you talked to, who haven’t you seen in a while, and who has suddenly dropped off and just reaching out is that I think a major, major first step and just saying, “Hey, I noticed – I haven’t seen you in a while, I have been texting you or haven’t seen you on social media.” Whatever your connection with that person is.

 

Then maybe the next step is there are so many ways to meet new people. The next step after that would be maybe invite them along to something you’re going to, a book club, or a social event, a conference, a club that you belong to. There are so many non-profits you can volunteer with. I mean, there are so many ways to get involved, but I think inviting them along rather than telling them. I mean, it’s easy to say, “Hey, there’s a book club over at the library.”

 

[0:18:49] PF: Go check it out.

 

[0:18:49] RH: Yeah. Go check it out versus, “Hey, I’m going to this book club next week. The book is fantastic. You don’t have to read it all. You don’t have to read any of it.” It’s just a chance to talk about the book and meet other people. Then forced that we bring them along. I think those are two things. One, checking in. Then two, just recommending, “Oh, hey. Why don’t you go to the gym? Why don’t you just.” Say, “Hey, I’m doing this. Can you come along?” Or invite them along with you.

 

[0:19:18] PF: I think for that, it’s important to keep asking, because the chances are the first time, first three times, they’re going to say no, but there’s also something that happens within that person when they are being invited. Someone’s extending a hand, someone wants to spend time with you. It’s like that’s, I think where you can really start helping them and not just giving up, not being like, “Well, they always say no.” Just continue to let them know that you’re interested in their companionship.

 

[0:19:48] RH: Yes, a 100%, because almost, especially depending on how long they’ve been in this loneliness cycle, their reaction is almost always going to be no, because, “Oh, I don’t want to be a burden.” “No, no, you, you’re an extrovert. I know you’re going to have more fun than I am. I’m going to be a drag, blah, blah, blah.” But you’re right. Every single time you ask them, it’s a little change going on up in there. It might be the fifth time or the 10th time, but yes. I love that. Thank you. Keep asking, because it will flip that switch. It might take a little while, but it will.

 

[0:20:23] PF: You just got to be patient and persistent. There’s so many pieces to this. I appreciate you sitting down and talking about this. We can do an entire series on loneliness and, and still just be scratching the surface. I am going to tell our listeners on the landing page, they’ll be able to find the column that you wrote about this. That also gives incredible tips for stepping out of loneliness.

 

I really hope that people do listen and whether they’re dealing with loneliness themselves and need some tips on how to take these baby steps. Things like adopt a pet. That was a great one. I mean, you gave just so many wonderful tips that are pretty easy to do and getting out in nature and. Then also, what we can do as people who are watching someone go through that. There’s a lot of ways that we can reach out and help. I truly appreciate you sitting down with me today and talking about it.

 

[0:21:12] RH: Well, thank you, Paula. I just so appreciate you reaching out to me and giving me this platform to talk about it, because it is a very important subject. Thank you.

 

[OUTRO]

 

[0:21:24] PF: That was Dr. Randall Hansen talking about loneliness. If you’d like to learn more about what he has to say about loneliness, check out his books or follow him on social media. Just visit us at livehappy.com and click on the podcast tab. That is all we have time for today. We’ll meet you back here again next week for an all-new episode. Until then, this is Paula Felps reminding you to make every day a happy one.

 

[END]

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