#TogetherToday (with Chip Gaines!)

We had a fabulous time yesterday hanging out on the plaza with The Today Show cast - helping share the word about their new initiative #TogetherToday! From larger-than-life games of checkers, to photo booths, to great conversations with Chip Gaines (of HGTV Fixer Upper fame!) - we had a wonderful morning connecting together to help lessen the massive costs of loneliness. If you are looking for the segments, check out the initial broadcast here, and click here for their piece on the power of volunteering to help quiet loneliness.

But don't let the togetherness stop now! Why not keep using the tag #TogetherToday on the Today Show Facebook page as you and your friends get together this week!? And if you are here in NYC for any reason soon, why not pop down to the Today Show studio and show them how much you care about this cause? We've even made you a quick sign you can print out, write your own message on, and hold high as someone who is passionate about ending loneliness (and you just NEVER KNOW who you might end up connecting with!?! You too might befriend Chip Gaines!).

(And while you are at it, why not tag us @thecostofloneliness in your Facebook postings so we can be a part of all the togetherness too!)

Sending friendship and connectedness your way this afternoon -- remember, you are not alone.



Can group exercise lead to healthier minds, not just bodies?

For many of us, the beginning of a new year is the prime time to start a new workout routine. The months and months of holiday snacking and sugar-gorging has led to a slightly thicker waistline, and the cold January evenings are the perfect time to sneak in a few minutes on the treadmill or a few laps in the community pool. I am certainly not immune to this cycle, and found myself in this exact same situation this year. Yet as I was weighing my options for exercise (Do I join a gym close to my house, or the nicer one farther away? Do I need a gym at all, or can I be disciplined enough to go running after work? Where do I find the right shoes and equipment that I might need?), I started wondering if perhaps my physical health, and my social health, might be intermixable. Could I chose an exercise program that actually helped me feel LESS lonely?

The benefits of exercise are well documented. Nearly everyone can rattle off the positive outcomes of getting active - released endorphins (those feel good hormones), reduction of stress, promotion of stronger resilience, increased muscle mass, and lessening of body fat. For nearly all people, exercise is good for our physical health - making us stronger, leaner, and more flexible.

But is there any connection between exercise and social health? Is there any way to make exercise more fun, and at the same time, turn it into a boost against loneliness as well?

Committing to any exercise plan can be challenging. But research shows committing to a group exercise experience, instead of a solitary one, can lead to wonderful outcomes far beyond the physical fitness ones. In a recent study in the Telegraph, researchers found that working out in groups led to increased mental well-being, physical fitness, and emotional stability - all things that together can help ease many of the feelings of loneliness. Armed with these insights, it was an easy decision - no more treadmill for me! I joined a group exercise studio in late December, and have yet to look back. With people (who are becoming new friends!) around, it's easy to show up even on rainy days, push a little harder than my brain says is possible, and come back even when every muscle is tight and sore. I'm equally as excited to get stronger as I am to make new friends who I can see multiple times a week. In so many ways, the research was right -- I do feel physically and socially stronger already, and you can too.

So what can you do if you want to add a group exercise routine to your Year of Connectedness as a way to help get both physically and socially fit?? It's easy!

1) Talk to your doctor if you have any questions at all

No matter how physically fit you feel, it's always helpful to chat with your primary care provider about her/his ideas on the best exercise for you. Get their check off, and then get going!

2) Find an activity you love

It's hard to gather the energy to go to any class you don't love. As a 'fallen' ballerina (with so many childhood recital pictures to prove it!), Barre has been a wonderful choice for me. I love the music, and the structure, and the focus on strong and flexible muscles. If you loved playing basketball as a child, why not join an adult league? If martial arts are your thing, most communities offer classes for teens and adults at the local YMCA. Find an activity you love and actually WANT to go to!

3) Start small

You do not need to exercise for hours every single day to reap the physical and social health rewards. A few minutes here and there can really start making all the difference in your body and your mind. It's totally ok to start small and work your way into longer sessions if you want to later - it's smarter for your muscles that way too!

4) Get your friends and family involved

Remember - the benefits toward lessening loneliness in group exercise comes from the 'group' component - so try to get your friends and family to join you in your social group exercise as well! It's a wonderful way to continue to build on the relationships you already have, and keep everyone's bodies healthy too! Those who sweat together, stay together ;)

5) Just go (even if you just lie on the mat for the full hour!)

Most days, just showing up is the hardest part. No matter how tired or how busy you feel, really push yourself to just GO. Remind yourself that your friends will be there. Remind yourself that you are worth it. Remind yourself that you will feel so much better during and after the class. Even if you have to just sit for the full class, being around others and supporting them as they exercise will do wonders to help quiet some of the pangs of loneliness.

As always - we are here for you! So let us know how your group exercise is going! We are so excited for a 2018 of healthier bodies, AND healthier minds!!

Three steps to a morning connections routine

Those first few beginning moments of the day truly set the tone for how the rest of the day is going to flow. We've all been there - those crazy mornings when the alarm fails to go off, and the dog has peed on the kitchen floor, and the car battery is dead, and all we want to do is crawl back in bed alone and hit re-start on the day (or on our lives!). But we probably have also had those incredible mornings where everything just seems to click into place - it's easy to wake before the sun rises, breakfast miraculously appears on the stove, and the kids beg to leave for school early (ok that last bit may be a stretch). Those mornings fuel us for positive, productive days. And the truth is, we have more control over that outcome than we might think.

Morning minutes are precious. We never seem to have enough, and they always seem to pop up earlier and earlier (who can honestly say they want to wake up at 4:30am?!). But study after study show that cultivating a morning routine for those first 30 minutes of your day can dramatically bring more calmness and structure to your entire day - and we think that by focusing a few of those minutes on connectedness, you can also bring drastically more social wellness into your life as well.

Morning routines can certainly vary, but all are grounded in their repetitive, meditative nature. Great thinkers and doers throughout time have had their own versions of morning routines - some rising absurdly early, some plunging their feet in ice water, many journaling, most writing lists of one sort of another. These routines have brought focus and clarity to their lives, and can do the same for yours. But as this is our Year of Connectedness, we also want your routine to help lessen loneliness, and bring connections and relationships to yours. 

What if YOUR morning routine could help you feel less lonely, and more connected, every single day? We think it can.

Your routine is completely yours, and the most important element is to create a plan that you love, and that works for your life. 30 minutes is more than plenty. The important thing is that you carve out time specifically in there to focus on the people in your life who are meaningful to you, or with whom you would like to build more meaningful connections. Here is an example of what could be done in those 30 extra-focused, purposeful minutes, but the important thing is that you craft that time to meet YOUR needs.

7:00 - Wake up

7:05 - Stretch, breathe, or meditate

7:10 - Coffee, tea, or orange juice for all


7:35 - Slowly move into your day

Morning connection routine.jpg

Starting your day thinking about your relationships is a way to center your energy on maintaining close emotional ties. Just 15 minutes focused on reaching out can drastically help curb the feelings of loneliness while strengthening and solidifying our meaningful relationships. So, during those daily morning minutes, we recommend accomplishing the following tasks:

  1. Think about one person who you feel especially close to now, and reach out with a quick text or call to say hi and let them know how much they mean to you. This can be really short - but it works to strengthen the connection of already existing relationships.
  2. Reach out to one 'distant' friend to just check in and say hello. This can be a friend from childhood that you have lost contact with, or a more recent friendship that has just taken a seat on the 'back burner'. Say hi. Let them know that you are thinking about them.
  3. Finally, make a plan for an upcoming relational activity. This can be a movie date with friends, an afternoon of volunteering in your community, a night out with your significant other, a walk around the block with your neighbors, a game of pick-up flag football - anything that lets you connect with others in a meaningful way. THESE REAL-LIFE CONNECTIONS ARE SUPER IMPORTANT to lessening loneliness - so please don't just stop after sending the first two texts ;) 

That's it! No more than 10 to 15 minutes of your new morning routine of focused energy on your social health can do wonders for lessening your overall feelings of loneliness, and hopefully will strengthen the meaningful relationships that are important to you.

The sound of the alarm clock does not have to be the worst moment of your day - instead, focusing for just a few minutes on your own social wellness before the chaos of the day starts can truly be a beginning to look forward to!

The beginning is often the hardest part

If there is one thing nearly everyone can agree on, it's that beginnings are almost always tough. Big beginnings, like moving to new cities. Or small beginnings, like choosing to walk to work instead of taking the bus. No matter how exciting the new beginning might be, or how much we planned and prepped for it, starting afresh gives most people some sense of dread. Will I do it correctly? Will I have enough energy to make this change stick? Will people support me in this new venture? Am I making the right decision in the first place?

The start of a new year often brings about these feelings. While New Year's Eve can be filled with parties and cocktails and grand plans for the upcoming year, settling into January can feel heavy with the weighted 'what ifs'. What if I can't do all the things I want to do this year? What if I fail? What if I never have the energy to start?

We totally understand this fear. We have also made grand plans for 2018, and are starting to wonder if we can really bite off all the wonderful things we want to 'chew'. It's daunting, this creating-a-life thing. But tucked behind all the anxieties around making a new year happen is the silent reminder - we are not in this alone. And neither are you.

We have named 2018 our Year of Connectedness, and are so excited to have you join us in this journey toward more passion, more purpose, and more connections. But we know that for a lot of us, this will require some big changes. And those big changes can feel scary - particulary if you haven't felt especially passionate or purposeful or connected in quite a while. Just know - we hear you. And we understand.

January is a great time to start new things, as the slate feels somewhat clean. So we urge you to hop on board with us now with some baby steps in moving toward a 2018 that feels meaningful and deeply connected - and you have us a resource for every step along the way. This month we are going to focus on what you can do right now to take a couple of those very first beginning steps - not too big, not too scary, but just right to help quell some of the loneliness feelings and begin to build a foundation for a happier 2018.

what i have vs what i want.png

Perhaps the easiest beginning for this journey towards a lessened sense of loneliness is just to take stock of where you are, what you have, and what you want. No massive changes to any lifestyle yet (that's what February is for, right??) - instead, just take a few minutes and truly ask yourself a few questions:

  • How are my relationships feeling these days?
  • How many close friends do I have right now?
  • How do I feel about the quality of these friendships? The quantity of these friendships?
  • How many close friends would feel good to me?
  • What would we do together that would feel good to me?

That's it right now! All you have to do right now is step one - just think about these few questions (and you don't have to do it perfectly, so don't let that fear stop you!). Loneliness often sets in when what we have, and what we want, do not align. But the only way to KNOW if that is happening is to think honestly about what we currently have, and what we would currently WANT to have. Today, we challenge you to think openly about what the current state of the connections in your life looks and feels like, and then to imagine what a world would look like for you that felt even MORE connected, if that is something you would like.

The beginning is often the hardest part. And this beginning exercise is deceptively simple - but it can be hard to be honest with ourselves. There is no shame in wanting more connections in our lives - for it is these very connections that make us our best human selves. Relationships let us laugh, and share, and grow, and stretch. We need these desperately - so do not beat yourself up if you want more connections than you currently have. That does not make you anything other than human ;)

2018 will allow for all sorts of self-exploration. Hopefully it will bring you a deeper awareness of what you need, and hopefully it will draw you closer to old, and new, friends. But today is only January 10th. So let's start at the very beginning, and just begin by understanding where we are today, and to start imagining where we could be that would feel even less lonely as the year moves forward. We will be right here with you - giving you ideas, connecting you with organizations, and sharing inspirational stories with you - one new beginning at a time.