In this post I wanted to share a message of someone who has greatly inspired me -- Dr. Lissa Rankin, MD. Dr. Rankin is a physician, author, speaker, and founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute. This year I had the opportunity to participate in her Whole Health Medicine Institute, which is a program for health care providers who are passionate about doing their part to heal health care.
The experience provided me with a great deal of professional and personal growth. Dr. Rankin's work inspires me to think critically about my role as a health care provider, keep an open mind about various modalities of healing, and educate others about the many things that we can do to improve our health.
Dr. Rankin recently gave a TEDx talk that sends a very powerful message, and I wanted to share it with you here. The title is "The #1 Public Health Issue Doctors Aren't Talking About." In this talk she discusses how loneliness is a major health epidemic in this country. I encourage you to check it out here.
Dr. Rankin explains that human beings nourish each other, and the health of the body reflects this. Loneliness increases mortality by 45% (making it more harmful than air pollution, obesity, and alcohol abuse). In fact, it is as dangerous for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes/day!
She points out that 1 in 5 Americans (60 million people!) are suffering from loneliness. Lonely people have higher rates of illnesses such as: heart disease, cancer, dementia, high blood pressure, diabetes, infection, anxiety, depression, insomnia, suicide, and addiction.
The question is, what do we do about it?
Do we need to expand our social circles as much as possible? Not necessarily. Dr. Rankin notes that it's possible to feel lonelier in a crowd of others than when you're alone. (I know I certainly have.) It's not so much about the quantity of "friends" you have, but about the quality of your relationships and finding your "soul tribe."
Dr. Rankin further explains how "the story of separation" and "othering" contributes to the loneliness epidemic. This happens when we see ourselves as separate from others, instead of recognizing that we are all interconnected.
What is the loneliness prescription? Dr. Rankin is honest in saying, "We don't know" for sure. She points out that, "It's an inside job, but we can't do it alone." She offers the following suggestions:
- Start by befriending yourself. If you are at war with yourself, believing you're not good enough, you're going to have a hard time magnetizing to others.
- Heal shame and perfectionism.
- Own your stuff. Get out of any victim stories.
- Engage in spiritual practices.
- Be vulnerable, take risks, and create trust. This builds resilience "so that we can handle the occasional person who isn't conscious enough to meet us in that heart space." (love that!)
- Learn to "bench press" your receiving muscles.
- Open your heart.
- "Hold space" for others. Be present, truly listen without "fixing," and withhold judgement.
- Be generous. When we feel fulfilled, we have a lot to give others.
- Remember that we are all connected and belong together.
I recommend checking out her talk. It's only 19.5 minutes in length and of course goes into more detail, with some great examples. Ask yourself if loneliness could be negatively impacting your health. Consider Dr. Rankin's suggestions, and recognize how our connection with others has an amazing power to heal.
This post was originally published on October 3, 2016.