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  • Writer's pictureR. Gavin Monson

Let's talk Social Currency...

Things are chilly over here in Scotland, and while we had fleeting snow (which prompted a big lorry accident on my main route to work... *sighs*) it's not been very Christmas-like for someone of my Midwestern upbringing. There's just not enough of the white stuff. And for heaven's sake, how can you call it Winter when the grass is still green.

Yes, as a child I got used to a couple feet of snow by now.

So things are cold and people are staying in, cranking up the heating and putting on an extra jumper. Some people are more festive than others. And as the season begins to settle in, a piece of research crossed my screen talking about how they found 3 key times in a person's life when they are most lonely.

While we don't fully understand being lonely, we've got a lot of research that lets us know that it's bad. Some research done by Cigna found that loneliness is as bad for your health as if you smoked 15 cigarettes a day. If only there were a way to put 'those' warning labels on at risk for loneliness people. Maybe then we'd be a little nicer to one another.

Warning! This product can cause mouth cancer.

There's a whole field of research that links how close-knit and protective your 'Tribe' is, to some quite serious chronic diseases. The research is both interesting and very, very disturbing. For example, spending time with just 7 different people a day can DRASTICALLY reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's.

So yeah... Loneliness is bad. Very, very bad.

And this new piece of research found that people of both sexes suffered peaks of loneliness in their 80's. It was also pronounced in the late 20's and the mid 50's.

Now I'm not here to argue why those particular age groups are more susceptible to feeling alone. Each of those ages has their own intrinsic stresses as well as life expectations that are potentially causative. What I am here to argue is that we are all weak. Weak in that we will all have moments of stress and strife. The strongest of us will, without a doubt, encounters moments of embarrassing weakness. Moments where it feels like the whole world is judging us. Moments where everyone is better than us and we feel like there is no one to help.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Knowing that we are all going to have weak moments, instead of being judgemental, can we not actively look for moments to help those who are struggling? If I help someone who is struggling while I'm in a strong moment, they stay lifted up and feel better about themselves. Someone cared enough to help. If I go out of my way to do those for at least one person every day, that's one person whose life I made better. One person not suffering from the debilitating health effects of loneliness.

One of the astounding findings in the data from that study was how high the percentage of loneliness was across all age groups. In the past findings had ranged from as high as 57% and as low as 17%. But this study found the numbers ranging much higher (76%). In the age of supposed inter connectivity, a group of people who were healthy and without mental illness were suffering from ever increasing amounts of crushing social isolation. I personally would argue that it has little to do with how many people we have floating around in our circles and the current generations' inability to look at a person as a whole instead of just their bullet point Facebook Status/Selfie.

We're all odd ducks in our journey through this life...

I suppose I'm asking the few of you who read these quasi incoherent words to think more about other people. Go ahead and start at people in their 80's. They definitely have a hard time of life, where the world seems to have passed them by. Every city I move to, I adopt a few grannies to spend some time with. They get to play with my children and we get to benefit from their wisdom.

But don't stop there. People in their late 20's are dealing with hard decisions. They left school and started their lives. Maybe it didn't turn out the way they thought it would. Maybe their friends make them think the grass is greener on the other side... Heck, the same could be said for the people in their mid 50's too.

So go ahead and move onto them. Because they all need support. And then stop looking at people as a number. Look at them for their day to day stresses. Help the woman who dropped her bag of groceries just as she was in the middle of crossing the road, and now has a bunch of angry cars honking at her. Help the Mother whose last child just went off to Uni and has an empty home and no clue what to do with her self.

The list of people who need help is never ending... and at times can seem daunting. One person can only do so much. But each person you help doesn't just make you feel good. It helps them avoid ill health. It helps improves society as a whole. And more importantly, when you experience those unexpected moments of weakness, you will be surrounded not only by people who understand what you're going through but people who are looking to return the help you gave them.

People say that money makes the world go round... and it's true that it has it's uses. But I prefer my social currency. It's much healthier.

That's all I have to say for now. Have a Merry Christmas. I'm looking forward to the New Year. In particular, I'll nip back in and share some pictures of me doing The Dook.

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