The Epidemic of Loneliness!
An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates
Volume 15, Number 2
(Photo by Anthony Tran)
This month’s E-Letter is about an epidemic of which little is spoken. It is about something we all have faced at different times in our lives. However, research and surveys show that loneliness is now of epidemic proportions. There are more unhappy and lonely people in our technology-connected world than can be recalled in modern times. Loneliness can be emotionally painful. Loneliness can also lead to debilitating mental and physical disorders. Yet there are ways to overcome isolation and feel connected to others.
KimmelPsychology has provided a monthly E-Letter for over 14 years, that is educational, informative, and helpful to our readers. Topics change every month but the format remains the same; brief information about the topic as well as suggestions for improvement. The topic of interest can be downloaded and used as a handout or a “tip sheet”.
Downloads of this handout and others from our previous E-Letters can be found on our website, https://www.kimmelpsychology.com/e-letters/. We encourage you to read and download them. You are invited to share your thoughts by emailing Dr. Kimmel at DrKimmel@Kimmelpsychology.com.
Make sure to read the latest blog addition near the end of this E-Letter.
PSYCHIATRIC CONSULTATION…The Daum Difference
Dr. Akiva M. Daum, MD, FAPA, is a Florida licensed psychiatrist in our practice. His residency in general psychiatry and addiction fellowship was completed through the Boston University School of Medicine and he has worked in both inpatient and outpatient settings for general adult and substance use disorder programs. He has expertise in the use of medication assisted treatment including Buprenorphine/Naloxone and Naltrexone for opioid use disorder as well as using naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram for alcohol use disorders.
Dr. Daum can be seen in our new video series on our youtube channel at A Minute With Dr. Daum. To schedule an appointment, Dr. Daum can be contacted at (954) 755-2885 or by email at Dr.Daum@kimmelpsychology.com .
Are you concerned about your child’s or grandchild’s performance or behavior in school? If you think that they are having some difficulty or not performing up to their capabilities, now is definitely the time to consult a professional. Intervening early can prevent a possible problem from becoming greater as the school year goes on.
Susan Flax is a licensed school psychologist who has extensive experience in evaluating children, adolescents, and young adults. She has tested for giftedness, intelligence, autism spectrum, attention deficit, depression, and anxiety disorders. She knows what it takes for students to thrive in school and understands the past demands, current expectations, and future educational/social pressures. She also knows exactly what is required to ensure your child receives accommodations and interventions, if needed, as quickly as possible.
Susan knows the approaches that work best to enhance focus and memory while reading, studying, learning, and test taking. She also knows strategies to help manage anxiety and behavior, and to develop emotional self-regulation so that a child can start and complete tasks at school and at home. Her user-friendly reports and clear explanations will empower you as a parent during conferences. She will also help you understand in advance what happens at a school meeting, who attends, and how to get your child’s needs met.
Susan can be contacted at 954 755-2885 or by email at SusanFlax@kimmelpsychology.com to answer your questions or to schedule an appointment.
THE EPIDEMIC OF LONELINESS!
(Photo by Priscilla Du Preez)
Despite having friends or followers on social media, loneliness today is of epidemic proportions. Loneliness can be emotionally painful and lead to debilitating mental and physical disorders. Depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia can have social isolation at its roots. Loneliness can also be as physically damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Research has shown that 20% of Americans report that they do not have meaningful social relationships and 10% feel lonely or isolated. While many consider loneliness to be an individual’s problem, it has great impact on our social, employment, and healthcare systems.
What makes this a bigger problem is that more people are living in single person households than ever before. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 25% of the American population live by themselves. Technology has allowed for more people to be connected yet it has drawbacks. Seeing friends and others as busy and happy may create jealousy or inadequacy feelings in those who are not busy or social. FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out, has become a reality for many and can create anxiety and sadness. Few people tend to post depressing, sad, or painful moments on social media. In reality, what is posted is distorted in a positive direction,
Research has also shown that social isolation can also lead to serious physical problems such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, and a greater risk for death. It is also a factor in suicide and other violent behaviors. Loneliness, according to a paper published in the American Journal of Public Health, can contribute to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, disability, cognitive decline and depression. It seems to be getting worse even though the world seems to be getting smaller
Loneliness should not be taken lightly. It is both a personal problem and a public health problem. Since loneliness underlies many health problems, visits to medical providers have increased. In addition, working too much or not enough tends to increase loneliness scores. Busy people don’t have the time to have significant relationships. Those who don’t work enough can become isolated. There is no easy solution. Even those engaged in relationships can struggle with loneliness.
One of the best cures for loneliness is to have meaningful interpersonal connections with others. These connections can do a lot to eliminate negative and harmful thoughts people have about themselves. These thoughts can include; “No one likes me.” “I’m really a failure”. Who wants to be around me?” People who connect with each other prove that these types of thoughts are irrational.
Another best cure for loneliness is to have a purpose in life. Having a purpose can give direction and create meaning for a person. It can answer the question “Why am I here? Living a life with purpose allows a person to have a core set of values that can direct their actions and emotions. It allows people to feel the satisfaction of achievement as well as the enjoyment of working with others. It can also allow them to feel satisfied when they are alone without feeling lonely. Finding a purpose gives feelings of belongingness and fulfillment which are antidotes to depression, isolation, and anxiety. Simply put, it allows a person to feel valuable.
Therapeutically, changing irrational or maladaptive thinking can be very powerful in overcoming loneliness. Loneliness tends to make people very aware of the reactions of others. They misperceive rejection and anger from others and tend to think the worst about themselves leading to withdrawal or isolation. They can create rationalizations where they believe that others intentionally do not want to be with them. They process social information negatively and expect that things will not go well for them.
In therapy, lonely people can be taught to recognize and challenge their irrational perceptions. They learn to consider other possibilities and see themselves as others see them. They can practice being liked and wanted. They will develop more accurate perceptions of themselves and can be reinforced for being more social.
We offer the following information on The Epidemic of Loneliness! This information can be downloaded as a handout at https://www.kimmelpsychology.com/e-letters/.
THE EPIDEMIC OF LONELINESS!
All the lonely people…Where do they all come from?
WHAT TO KNOW!
- Loneliness is not just being alone; it is a state of mind where people feel isolated, unwanted, empty, unimportant, anxious, and depressed
- Living alone has increased over the years; single person households are the second most common type of household
- Loneliness is subjective: even though you may have friends, you can feel disconnected
- Loneliness has reached epidemic proportions; an AARP survey found that more than 42 million Americans over the age of 45 have chronic loneliness
- Another survey from The Economist and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 22% of American adults often feel or always feel lonely, lack companionship, or feel isolated
- A recent Cigna study of 20,000 adults found:
- Nearly half felt like they were alone
- Only a little more than 50% had meaningful daily interactions with others
- 50% said that they felt isolated from others and sometimes or always had relationships that were not meaningful
- 20% said that they rarely or never feel close to people
- 18% felt like they had no one to talk to
- Loneliness has been shown to lead to alcoholism, depression, poor sleep, weight gain, anxiety, and schizophrenia
- Social isolation can also lead to chronic inflammation, heart disease, stroke, cancer, cognitive decline, high blood pressure, and a higher risk for death
- People who are not lonely have regular interactions with others, are usually employed, get along well with co-workers, and have a purpose in their lives
- In adolescents, loneliness is linked to antisocial behavior including hostility, delinquency, and violent acting-out including school shootings
WHAT TO DO!
- Find a purpose so that you can feel fulfilled and that your life has some meaning
- Silence your critical, internal voice that prevents you from being outgoing
- Consider getting an emotional support animal; cats, dogs, and even horses can be very effective in decreasing loneliness and depression
- Get regular sleep as studies have shown that it decreases loneliness
- Push yourself to actively spend good quality time with family and friends
- Take care of your health by exercising, eating well, and not overconsuming alcohol
- Volunteer for community service where you can meet other people
- Seek professional help; a therapeutic relationship can help overcome your loneliness
WE CAN HELP!
Call us at 954 755-2885 or email us at info@Kimmelpsychology.com
Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D. P.A. and Associates
5551 N University Drive, Suite 202
Coral Springs FL 33067
Copyright © 2020 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D.
Dr. K’s Blog
February 19, 2020
Despite what we may hear in the media, I have found people to be more friendly and open if you don’t talk politics. I have encountered waiters, waitresses, and cashiers that smile more and are more talkative when I ask them their name. I have found people smile back when I’ve smiled at them. Sending “thinking of you” or birthday greetings on social media almost always gets a positive response. Even saying “hello” gets the same in return.
So maybe things aren’t as bad as they sound in the news. Perhaps not everybody is out to scam you or break into your accounts. Hearing negative news reports and being constantly inundated with advertised home or internet security warnings actually decrease our trust in others. And we are not even aware of it.
Let’s not be naïve. Sure, there are bad guys out there but perhaps things are not as bad as we are led to believe.
Let’s be smart about who we trust and let’s be friendlier to each other.
November 16, 2019
Rather than my usual musings, in the true spirit of the holiday season, I am listing below 10 inspirational quotes hoping that they might motivate some readers.
1. Fall seven times…stand up eight (Japanese proverb)
2. Jump and a net will appear (Zen proverb)
3. Be the best version of yourself (Sara Sampaio)
4. I am not what happened to me…I am what I choose to become (Carl Jung)
5. She turned her cant’s into cans and her dreams into plans. (Kobi Yamada)
6. A woman is like a tea bag — you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water. (Eleanor Roosevelt)
7. What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best days of our lives haven’t happened yet. (Anne Frank)
8. You’re a diamond, dear. They can’t break you. (Unknown)
9. She promised herself better and never looked back. (Unknown)
10.Be the CEO your parents always wanted you to marry. (Unknown)
Have a very Happy Thanksgiving and holiday season.
October 20, 2019
Recently, I decided to digitize the 60+ movies that I took when I was younger and before there were video cameras. I promised myself that I would do this at some time and it was now the time. I sent several off to a digitization company and was stunned with what I saw once I received them. Memories of past events that were long forgotten sprung to life. People who had been instrumental early in my life and who are now gone popped up on the video screen. With them were many, many memories.
My family had the opportunity to see my parents and relatives who they never met and really didn’t know anything about. They had the opportunity to see my wedding and both myself and their mother when we were virtually kids. It did bring some sadness to see those who have passed in the prime of their lives yet at least they could see them. It also brought to life places that I have been to and long forgotten but told my children about. I realized more about myself looking at who I was. I am now looking forward to receiving more videos of movies from the past. I strongly recommend that if you have movies and have contemplated digitizing them, do not wait. The rewards are invaluable.
September 14, 2019
Last week most of us were mesmerized by the possibility of suffering the ravages of Hurricane Dorian. The generated anxiety was so great that my daughter and I cut short our vacation to return to Florida to protect our homes. Twelve hours on a plane can be very demanding but we were able to sleep through most of it. Fortunately, South Florida was spared but not the Bahamas. Most of us living here have been to the Bahamas a number of times. Albeit, on cruises or quick vacations, there does seem to be a special connection between that country and Florida. We have always found our trips there to be enjoyable and relaxing.
True to form, when there are catastrophes, the goodness in most of us springs into action to help those who have suffered. It was heartwarming to see the many, many people and organizations who have sprung into action to help those in need. Some didn’t even wait for the government to develop rescue plans. Using their own boats and planes, they organized relief efforts in their communities and brought help to those before the established organizations even got off the ground. Mind you, these are strangers helping strangers. This is the true human condition. Relief efforts continue and will continue for a long time as the devastation goes beyond words. If you have not yet given or helped out, I urge you to go to the local store and buy some canned food, paper goods, toiletries, or clothing and bring them to a local drop off point for shipment to the Bahamas.
Why does it take catastrophes for us to put aside our differences to care for the needy, the less fortunate, the victims? Why do we allow ourselves to get caught up with the politicians, celebrities, sports figures and others who tear us down and find fault with who we are?
Imagine what we could accomplish if we regularly functioned together as a nation like we did after the hurricanes, the destruction of the World Trade Center, the mass shootings etc. We have it within us.
Our nation is made up of people with compassion, morality, and generosity. Let’s live it not only in times of catastrophe but all the time.
August 16, 2019
Yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of the phenomenon known as Woodstock. For three days in the Catskills community of Bethel, New York, almost 500,000 people came together to enjoy music, peace, drugs, love, and togetherness. America and probably the world had never seen this type of experience before. No one was killed, several were hurt due to dehydration and drug overdoses, and many went hungry. However, the community came together to police, feed, take care of, and protect each other. What an opportunity to show what can happen when people try to get along, are respectful of each other, and care enough not to hurt others.
Contrast that with how we live today. Just fifty years later, our nation is polarized, angry, fearful, distrustful, and disrespectful. The Woodstock generation is now into their seventies or eighties but those who were there remember what it was like to have Peace and Love. What happened to change the world and why did we all let this happen? Perhaps the question is not really how this happened but how can we get back to caring and respecting each other. It is up to us.
Woodstock by Joni Mitchell
Well, I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, Tell me, where are you going
This he told me
Said, I’m going down to Yasgur’s Farm
Gonna join in a rock and roll band
Got to get back to the land and set my soul free
We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion-year-old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden
Well, then can I roam beside you?
I have come to lose the smog,
And I feel myself a cog in somethin’ turning
And maybe it’s the time of year
Yes and maybe it’s the time of man
And I don’t know who I am
But life is for learning
We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion-year-old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden
We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion-year-old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden
By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere was a song and a celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bomber death planes
Riding shotgun in the sky,
Turning into butterflies
Above our nation
We are stardust, we are golden,
We are caught in the devil’s bargain
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden
July 18, 2019
In a few days from now, it will be the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 11 landing men on the moon. While technology has advanced rapidly since then, it is hard to imagine the magnitude of this event. We have become desensitized to new advances in technology as they occur almost every day and we can even own them. Our science has provided us with new smart devices and we have come to not only accept it but to expect it.
I remember the landing fifty years ago. It was huge and everyone seemed glued to the television set to watch it happen. Try to place yourself back then. Color television was just coming into its own. Phones were wired and long-distance calls were extremely expensive and very infrequent. There were only a few television channels. The first personal computer, the TRS 80, would not be introduced for a few years. We had no calculators and knew little about technology.
Landing on the moon, given that background, was truly an astounding feat and almost hard to believe. Almost everyone stopped what they were doing to watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin step down on to the surface of the moon. It was as if science fiction came to life.
Being able to land on the moon with the limited technology of the day shows what determination, commitment, and intelligence can achieve. This is a lesson for us all.
June 20, 2019
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Eagles’ Haven in Coral Springs. It has only been open a few months but I was extremely impressed by the nurturing environment created there. Each of the people I met were dedicated to caring and helping. The environment is warm, supportive, and friendly but not intrusive.
Eagles’ Haven is a community wellness center run by the amazing people of JAFCO to provide support, education and wellness to current, former, and future Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, teachers, and family members. It is open to the community, seven days a week, and is a place to drop in for supportive services or wellness activities. It is not a therapy center but it does run different support groups for students. Wellness activities include yoga, kickboxing, cooking, Tai Chi, meditation, open mic, and resiliency workshops. All of this is done free of charge.
I have known JAFCO for years as an extremely well run and professional agency to help children and families in need. Their services are excellent because of their professionalism and true caring for others. It is no surprise to me that they have reached out to establish a community center to help the traumatized in Parkland and at no cost or requirements.
If you know anyone in need who needs a place to go to heal, have fun, and to feel cared for, please direct them to Eagles’ Haven.
May 20, 2019
Sunday evening, I attended the burning of the Temple of Time which was constructed as a healing project for victims of the MSD shooting. Over the several months of the Temple’s existence, thousands of people came to pay their respects, leave messages, and drawings and other items. Lat night, there were hundreds of people on hand to watch the Coral Springs and Parkland Fire Departments set fire to burn the Temple down. It was quite a moving experience. (Photos credit Dr. Joel Kimmel)
Despite the customary speeches from city officials, people came with chairs, drinks, their children, bicycles, and cameras to record this significant event. People were friendly and some were crying. At a specified time, the firemen surrounded the Temple ignited the flames and very quickly the structure went up in fire. Sparks flew up and into the sky and were quickly watered down by the firemen. The burn was very controlled although the heat and smell of the smoke covered us all.
Emotionally, I am sure that the burning helped some people to let go of their grief. Artistically, it was a very different kind of event. For others, it was a very unique experience, never to be forgotten.
April 19, 2019
Recently, I have had the opportunity to attend several theatre organ concerts in a private home/museum. Theatre organs are a distinct type of pipe organ that was originally developed to provide music and sound effects for silent movies early in the twentieth century. Consequently, they are very large.
Besides these instruments being beautiful visually, the sounds they make are exquisite. One can close their eyes and be transported back through time to another era. The music that is played is often from earlier decades but certainly a group favorite is the score from The Phantom of The Opera.
Still in use at ball parks and certain concert halls, as well as private homes, these instruments are very unique. It is difficult to believe that such an instrument can create chimes, horns, and other sounds while maintaining the melody. Having several keyboards and foot pedals, it takes great skill and talent to be able to coordinate hands and feet to produce the sounds and the music. The organists I have heard appear to love their craft as well as explaining how the organ works to the audience.
I have found that attending these concerts has allowed me to escape the constant everyday stress and to be transported back to a time when life was simpler. I encourage you, if given the opportunity, to attend at least one of these concerts and hopefully, you will enjoy them as much as I have.
March 21, 2019
Recently, I began to listen to podcasts. I felt like I had discovered a new world. There seems to be a podcast about almost anything. I have found the ones that I listen to to be entertaining and very enjoyable. They are well produced and well narrated. The suspense in some of them literally keeps you on the edge of your seat. Today’s technology allows you to listen to them virtually where ever you are and helps you quickly pass the time while driving, flying, or just waiting for someone. From mysteries to teachings, podcasts are very entertaining.
Listening to podcasts is not really that different than our parents or grandparents who used to get their entertainment from the radio because there was nothing else. Shows like “Dragnet” or ”The Shadow” were old time radio series and in many ways, equivalent to what we listen now. But technology has made podcasts better and we can listen on our cell phones, computers, or tablets.
Old radio shows, like typewriters and vinyl records, have become very trendy amongst the younger generations. Does this signal a revolt against technology? Probably not. But maybe it is a reaction against social media, the constantly developing Smart technology, and the complexity of modern life. There seems to be a growing interest in things that are old, things that are mechanical and make noises, things that are not perfect, and things that can be fixed rather than thrown away. Using typewriters instead of computers and listening to vinyl records rather than downloaded tunes have become quite trendy and seem to be on the rise. Many people now like to play mechanical pinball machines and even old arcade games like Space Invaders or Pac Man.
I think it’s great to have both the old and the new. But I wonder if fountain pens, rotary phones, and carbon paper will ever return. Maybe there is a podcast about that.
I would love to hear from you. Send me your thoughts and I will publish them in next month’s blog.
February 22, 2019
Last week I visited the Temple of Peace that has been constructed on Sample Road in Coral Springs. It was truly moving and reminded me of the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. It opened on Valentine’s Day, the one-year anniversary of the Douglas High School shooting, as a place of healing. An intricate structure, it is a safe haven for those who want to come and express their grief.
Inside the structure were flowers and hundreds of hand-written notes, drawings, pictures, and poems dedicated to those who were killed or wounded in the shooting. The messages in the notes were very personal and emotional. There were many people there yet no one spoke or intruded on others. It was very respectful and serene. I found the Temple of Peace quite comforting. I strongly suggest that if you can make it to the location, it is worth the visit.
The structure was constructed mostly by volunteers including students from Stoneman Douglas as well as some of the victims’ families. It will be burned down in May as a way of casting off the demons of pain, grief, and sorrow according to the artist David Best. This is not something to be missed.
January 21, 2019
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend both Art Miami and Art Palm Beach. I have attended these exhibitions for several years and almost always come away impressed. Both of these events showcase contemporary artists whose creativity and imagination are truly amazing. Unlike conventional paintings and sculptures, art is made from very unique items. Portraits of rock musicians are made from broken vinyl records. Dresses are made from plastic forks and spoons. Sculptures of animals are made from bullet casings. Other sculptures are made from used text books. Abstractions are made from buttons and pins. Large pictures of celebrities are made from smaller pictures of the same celebrity. Famous art scenes are replicated in bubble wrap. I often wonder how these artists come up with their medium. How do they think of what materials to use to create their works?
Simply put, artists think differently that ordinary people. I don’t believe they are bound by our conventional cause and effect thinking. Rather they think out of the proverbial box. The artists seem able to see things differently and create what they see in ways than most people wouldn’t even dream. They not only can conceptualize differently but they are able to construct their vision. Who would think of painting each bubble of a bubble wrap section a different color and then be able to complete the picture to be a likeness of a Seurat?
Our world is fortunate to have artists and other creative spirits. They cause us to expand our own thinking and appreciate seeing objects and even the world in different ways. In this manner, we grow and evolve.
December 21, 2018
Every year at this time, I set aside time to do some thinking about what happened in my life this year. Was it better than last year and if not, why not? Did I do everything I wanted? Did I improve my health? Did I tell those who I love and care for that I do love them and do care for them? Did I grow myself and help others to live a happier life? I think being a psychologist causes one to be more introspective than others. And yes, I actively spent time with those I love and care for and tried to help this who I treat to live better lives.
This year, unfortunately, will live in history as a tragic year. It is just a few months short of the one-year anniversary of the horrific tragedy that occurred at Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day. While life does go on, many, many, many members of the community have been traumatized by the shooting. Even though life seems to have returned to normal, people have not. I find myself wanting to know more about what happened that fateful day and then feeling angry and appalled by the numerous failures of the systems designed to protect our students and all of us. What good is it to “See Something, Say Something” when many people did say something yet nothing was done. Who is being held accountable for the failures that day? Are they still in positions of responsibility or are they just trying to pass the blame onto others? Will we ever know who failed to protect our kids? What messages are we teaching our kids?
I truly hope that this new year brings some solace to those who are still grieving, still fearful, and still in shock from that horrible event. My New Year’s wish is for speedy healing of those who have been traumatized so that one day in some year soon they can look back and say that this was a good year.
November 16, 2018
Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting, over dinner, a Holocaust survivor who spent three years in Auschwitz. A friendly and outgoing individual, Morris is more than 90 years old and in very good health. His cognitive abilities were great and he easily spoke about his life. He detailed his experiences including showing his tattooed arm and what it was like being liberated. He said that he spends a lot of time talking to students in school and enjoys opening their eyes to his experiences with the message of “Never Again”. One wonders and I am often asked, how can these survivors enjoy life after what they have been through? Aren’t they filled with hate?
Was it a coincidence that I met him on Kristallnacht? Who knows? I told him that I had visited that death camp many times and perhaps that was the one of the things that bonded us. There was a genuine warmth and good feelings making this connection. Having had a horrific childhood, he now lives on his own but is he lonely or bitter? Not a chance. He has found a purpose which adds meaning to his life.
This is a man who took the worst and turned it into the best for himself.
A lesson for us all.
October 20, 2018
Unfortunately, politics has been good for my business. While I believe that few people have sought treatment because of being upset about politics, there is not one patient I have who has not talked or made comments about politicians. It seems to me that people are angry, scared, and worried about the future. Rightly or wrongly so, their emotional states have escalated and they report feelings of powerless. The question of what can I do is followed by a shrug of the shoulders and a reluctant acceptance of the current situation.
Ironically, as a psychologist, I work to empower my patients with new ways of thinking and behaving to resolve their problems and deescalate their negative feelings. We work towards avoiding harmful, negative situations and learning how to handle them when they occur. We model respect for ourselves and for others. We develop strategies to deal with difficult people and situations and develop ways to handle the anxiety, anger, and frustration.
The current political and societal climate have given us a lot to work with.
September 21, 2018
Like many others I have spoken to and have heard, I am appalled by the lack of decency and respect in our society today. I believe that this is a bigger problem than just politics where much of it comes from. What are the messages we teach each other and our children? What will the future be like if we cannot trust or respect each other? What values do we live by and how can we feel secure in a world where the main entertainment is winning or getting the better of the other guy? I believe this is a time when all of us need to evaluate our own values and behaviors and determine whether we are contributing to the collapse of decency and respect. We all need to decide how we want to live and relate to each other.
It is also the time that each of us individually need to take the responsibility of bettering society by how we live and by being an example of respect and decency. We cannot wait for society’s
leaders and influencers to set an example because they haven’t yet and probably won’t. It is my belief that only each of us can repair the world in our way.
Be kind and respectful to others. Hold the door and say please and thank you. Smile at others. Cooperate and help those who need it all the time not just in times of illness or catastrophes. Think of others not just ourselves. Be charitable and see others not as competitors but also trying to make their way in the world. Refrain from watching or listening to rabble-rousers as well as television shows or movies that degrade your values. Let others know that disrespect and indecency will not be accepted. Be a leader and not a follower.
If not now, when?
July 19, 2018
Recently I decided to do an experiment to put more balance in my life. Since I frequently talk to many people, I wanted to see if I could go a day without speaking to no more than three people. Would I be successful? The answer was yes and I was surprised and gratified. I went to the beach by myself prepared to snack, read, and listen to music. The weather in the morning and early afternoon was perfect. Just before the crowds descended upon the beach, I left having spent several hours under an umbrella in the sun. What serenity to have the day to myself to do what I wanted to do and I did. I made the time to relax, left all my responsibilities behind, and did not have to listen to or talk to anyone. I did however speak to both of my adult children but that was it for the day. I watched the fireworks through the rain while listening to music on the car radio. The day was just what I needed.
My typical day is filled with responsibilities. I have deep, emotional conversations with multiple people every day. In addition, there are always things that need to be done at home and in the office. There are phone calls to answer, chores that need to be done, and plans made for the next day or week. I often feel like I am doing a lot just to keep up, doing what needs to be done. But researching a balanced life led me to thinking and the above experiment.
I think it is hard to understand a balanced life until one actually experiences it. If you feel like your life just consists of things that need to be done, consider taking a day off and experiencing a balanced life. Maybe you will change your life to have more fun and relaxation and pursue the activities that you want to do not have to do.
June 14, 2018
I have just recovered from a cold. Like many of us, I suffered with congestion, runny nose, a cough, and difficulty sleeping. Fortunately, it did not last long after following my doctor’s advice. But it made me think of how lucky we are to usually be in good health. We often take that for granted as we busy ourselves with our responsibilities and activities. Once we are sick, we realize how debilitating colds can be. We have to cancel appointments, suffer with discomfort, and just wait until we get better.
Being sick made me truly appreciate how good it is to be healthy. I have always taken steps to be healthy…eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep. I spray disinfectant after sick patients come to the office and wash my hands multiple times during the day. But the truth is, despite doing our best, we get sick and have to rest up until it passes.
We take our good health for granted and do not focus enough on maintaining it. It is important to recognize that good health is not a gift. It is dependent upon what we do, what we eat, what we drink, how we sleep, what drugs we put in our bodies, and how we work.
Maybe by getting sick, we get refocused on living a healthy lifestyle and being conscious of all that we do.
May 21, 2018
Just as predicted, another school shooting happened. This time in Texas. Ten more lost their lives by an angry and probably mentally ill young man. Again parents, family, and a community grieve because there have been no significant changes. When the tragedies happen, we band together supporting each other and demanding change. Then everything quiets down and people become passive waiting for the elections, for the internal review reports, or for the notoriously slow legal system to take action. This passivity needs to be challenged and the marching must continue for there to be effective change.
Years ago, I remember when there were the post office and workplace shootings that occurred because of disgruntled employees who believed they were harmed in some way. Today, it seems like there are disgruntled students who put such low value on human life, that they go into their schools to kill. When will this stop?
The killing will stop not when there are changes in the gun laws. The killings will stop when politicians and society recognize that mental illness is a causative factor in these murders. Not all people who have a mental disorder are dangerous yet there are those who are just so angry, so disillusioned, so disenfranchised, so isolated that they somehow see killing others as acceptable.
The signs are often there but ignored because mental illness is not taken seriously in our society. These people need to be identified early before they reach the point of rage and act out. They need to be understood and treated so that these tragedies can be prevented before they happen. These individuals need to be defused of their anger and connected to others so that they do not isolate.
We need to march not only for a change in gun laws but also for a change in how we deal with mental illness before another tragedy occurs.
April 20, 2018
It has now been over two months since the terrible tragedy that happened at Stoneman Douglas. School and routines have resumed but people are not the same. A profound sadness is still upon the community and it will take a long time to overcome the anger and grief, if ever. But most people I have spoken to want to resume their lives.
Town hall meetings and gun violence protests occur frequently and rightly so. Hopefully changes will be made to protect and ensure the safety of our society. However, it seems that little attention has been paid to those individuals who are mentally or characterologically ill. History has shown us that these types of individuals will continue to act out against society and will find the means to do so.
We must as a society find ways to help these people and get them connected so that they are not isolated and angry. Early identification of behavioral or emotional problems can help these individuals before their anger and resentment grow into acting out behaviors against society. This is not just a suggestion; this is a necessity.
We very well may be looking at a mental health epidemic. Combine this with the availability of weapons is a recipe for disaster. Just providing money to have more counselors at schools or to failed mental health clinics is not enough. Just as we would with a medical illness, we need to have mental health tools, quality training of therapists, and research-based screening programs to identify and help those individuals at risk before they escalate.
The time has come. Mental illness needs to be recognized as an epidemic and treated and not hidden because of stigma or not being an exciting topic for the media. Guns do kill people but people pull the trigger.
January 20, 2018
During the past year, many of my patients have come to their sessions angry about politics. It doesn’t matter what party they belong to or whether they are right-leaning, left-leaning, or centrist, they are all angry and frustrated. They feel powerless and worry about the future of our country and of themselves. Perhaps, rightly so. Many hours have been spent in conversation attempting to reduce their anger and to focus on their daily lives.
One of the suggestions that have come out of our discussions seems to work. That is, to reduce or eliminate the number of hours spent watching the news on television or listening to it on the radio. It doesn’t matter what network you watch or listen to. All of them seem intent on stirring up feelings of unfairness and anger but offer no solutions. I guess the ultimate goal is to get watchers or listeners glued to their stations. Perhaps this is a media addiction. Yet there is no high but only worry and anger.
I recently read an article about a self-imposed news blackout by Christopher Hebert, an assistant professor of English at the University of Tennessee, in the January 18 edition of The Guardian. The following is an excerpt:
Ignorance is far easier than I thought. I finish two or three audiobooks a week. I read novels instead of newspapers. Five months into my blackout, I’m happier than I ever was back in the days when I was informed. My fingernails are growing back. The sleeping pills remain in the bottle. I’m getting more work done. My family comes home at the end of the day to find me smiling, chopping things for dinner without my old regicidal rage. And yet, part of me can’t stop feeling guilty about feeling good.
Perhaps, this is one solution to the anger and frustration of a media news addiction.
December 18, 2017
Today, a patient of mine told me that his daughters were graduating from college in a few months. I was surprised to realize and remember how fast time passes. I know that it does but was nevertheless surprised. It seemed like it was just yesterday, that we were discussing their separating and leaving home for college. We spent many sessions discussing being an empty nester and the changes and opportunities it brings.
Time is relative in that it seems like some moments go on forever and some go so quickly that if we blink, we miss them. Life just seems to happen while we are waiting for whatever we are waiting for. While we are looking at what we don’t have and didn’t do, we miss out on what we did do and the wonderful experiences that we did have. I think the answer lies in living in the moment. Taking in as much as we can, both good and bad, is the best we can do.
I recently saw a friend of mine who was depressed about turning 70. We talked and I tried to get him to see that age was just a number and how he viewed that number would determine his mood. I don’t think I got very far trying to convince him that he was not old and was still vital and helpful to so many people. Maybe it sunk in.
For myself, I have been practicing mindfulness and trying to live in the moment. I am looking for stillness and sometimes am successful. I try to use all my senses in savoring the moment and some simple experiences defy description in their beauty. Yet reality and our society seem to have a way of intruding so that stress and worry are created. I look at mindfulness and appreciating natural beauty as the antidote to the constant troubling news and feeling of powerless generated by politicians, news people, and other media types.
The past year has been difficult in some ways yet I have had some wonderful experiences with my family and friends. None of us knows what the new year brings for us but I am determined to enjoy as much of it as I can. It will take work and discipline and sacrifice and commitment. But what is the alternative?
November 18. 2017
On Thursday nights, I take a restorative yoga class. This class is not a typical yoga class. Rather, it is more of a meditation and relaxation class. Guided by the instructor while in postures of relaxation, I find myself letting go and truly relaxing from the business of the week. In fact, when the class is over, few yogis want to leave and “I needed that” is frequently heard.
Although I have been trained in relaxation techniques and use them with some patients, it is hard for me to actually relax. Taking this class has allowed me to experience in some way what my patients experience. True relaxation necessitates the ability to let go; something most of us have a hard time doing. Whether we live hurried lives or we don’t have a sense of safety without our guards being up, relaxation takes practice. Letting one’s guard down takes trust. Letting go takes effort.
In restorative yoga after a sense of stillness is achieved in a posture, the instructor uses guided imagery to describe peaceful and beautiful scenes to direct our attention towards relaxing. Following the teacher’s imagery, one can transcend the everyday world into the world of the imagery. Worries disappear, muscles loosen and smooth out, and the events of the day are forgotten for a few moments. Some people become so relaxed that they even fall asleep.
Research has shown that relaxation has many psychological and physical benefits. In the hectic and stressful world in which we live, relaxation is not a luxury. It is a necessity. I have found my way to relax in restorative yoga. I hope you can find your way. Consider taking a yoga class.
October 21, 2017
Last night I watched the movie, “Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace, Music, and Love”, and was visibly moved by how much our society has changed in the almost 50 years since this festival occurred. As I remembered and confirmed in the movie, the Woodstock community was peaceful and loving. Numerous comments were made about how nice the kids were, how courteous they were to each other, and how helpful they were to each other. This happened despite the quantity of drugs, the rain, the lack of food, the lack of accommodations, and the difficulties in transportation. Townspeople went out of their way to comment on how courteous the kids were saying “thank you” and “please” and asking permission. They greeted each other warmly and were well behaved not wanting to trespass on the property of others. They respected themselves and each other. When food ran out, they shared. When it rained, they shared whatever they had to cover themselves. When disagreements occurred, they settled them peacefully. When someone overdosed or had bad trips, there were others and medics to help them. They worked together to make this temporary society flourish. As Spock says in Star Trek, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few … or the one.
Contrast that with today’s society. It seems to me that disrespect has become the norm. The values of our society which has existed for generations seems to have become eroded. Language has deteriorated to the point that curse words are used commonly in language by both sexes in public and on television. Dress has become so casual that in some cases it borders on sloppy and unsanitary. Respect for institutions is not trendy nor important. Values seem to be only important when it serves the needs of the person. Verbal attacks upon others occur daily and fake news and innuendo have become okay to use as fact. People will trample others to get the sale item when in limited quantities. Often, we don’t hear thank you or please even when holding the door for others. Protests have replaced communication, problem solving, compromise, or even mutual discussion. Selfishness and materialism seem to have become the norm and are reinforced by our media. The needs of the one appears to be more important than the needs of the many.
What has caused this in the past almost 50 years? We can point to many factors: fear, anger, the Vietnam War and others, the coming of age of the Internet, advertising, the pursuit of more money at the expense of others, the absence of appropriate role modeling by adults, drugs and alcohol, lies and deceit by politicians, celebrities, and broadcast news, serial abusers, Madoff type scandals, hidden agendas, and a silent society that allows these changes to occur. I am sure we can cite more causes.
Can we ever regain respect for our society to function? I would like to be optimistic and think yes. We see it in the support our nation gives to others when there is a disaster. We see it when individuals volunteer their money and time to help those who are less fortunate. We see it in the dedicated teachers and first responders. We see it in many others who still honor our values.
What can you do? Respect yourself. Follow the Golden Rule. Stick to your standards even though others may not. Say “thank you” and please. Smile at others. Be courteous. Let others get in front of you while driving. Just be concerned about the needs of the many rather than the needs of the one.
As always, I am interested in your thoughts. If you would like to respond to this blog, email me your comments at DrKimmel@kimmelpsychology.com and I will publish them next month.
Till March …
The information provided in this electronic newsletter is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is the opinions of the writers and is provided solely for educational purposes. For mental health care, seek a qualified professional.
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If you find this information interesting or helpful, please forward this E-Letter to your contacts and friends. Copyright © 2019 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D. P.A. and Associates.