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Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, most of us spent a good deal of time outside, playing, making friends, or getting into mischief. In our neighbourhood, as the sun went down, you could hear parents calling for their kids to come inside. Playing outside was our entertainment, and for better or worse, we were forced to learn how to get along and develop our social skills.

Now in 2023, we can cocoon ourselves at home, and have been forced to for much of the past 3 years. Many of us now rely on phone surfing (how is your swiping finger?;), binge watching the latest streaming series or some other self-isolating practice. This isn’t good, particularly for those who are entering work-optional life where even daily interaction with colleagues is no more.

Just this past week the U.S. Surgeon General stated, “Widespread loneliness in the U.S. poses health risks as deadly as smoking up to 15 cigarettes daily…About half of U.S. adults say they’ve experienced loneliness…We now know that loneliness is a common feeling that many people experience. It’s like hunger or thirst. It’s a feeling the body sends us when something we need for survival is missing.

If we can agree keeping your social networks vibrant is good for your health, how does one do that, in this day and age? I look at it this way. Many people’s default response is to rely on technology for entertainment and connection. Not that they want it this way, but it is an option that is always available. I know the irony of label ‘social networks’ is not lost on you;)

Be the one who asks to meet up for a walk, play a sport, join a community group or find a spiritual organization. I think you will be pleasantly surprised how many others are looking for the connections you too are missing.

Just this past week I set up a call with 3 friends from high school on zoom (there’s technology again, but we live in different cities;). I think we had been chatting for all of 5 minutes when the idea of a reunion came up. Thirty minutes later we had chosen a date, assigned tasks, and on our first day of getting the word out, we had over 50 individuals say ‘yes’ to a Toronto reunion this September.

Most people want to connect on a deeper level and in your next phase of life, I encourage you to take the initiative to find your next good friend. Maybe staying outside and playing after dinner isn’t such a bad idea after all:)