Recovering from Loneliness in the Age of Covid-19

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Feeling Lonely? So many people feel like you do.

Before the social distancing and isolation brought on by Covid-19, there was an epidemic of loneliness in the United States. A recent poll identified three out of every five Americans as suffering from chronic loneliness. Among millennials the percentage is even higher. 

With Covid-19 even more Americans feel lonely. It’s not just about being physically alone. It’s a feeling that no one really cares about you. Yes, there is social contact online and by telephone. There is maybe even talking with someone six feet away. But none of this contact is the same as interacting with co-workers or others on site. The deep connection is missing.

Several of the patients in my practice as a clinical psychologist tell me they feel the pain of not being touched physically nor emotionally day after day.  They begin to think of themselves as not really mattering to anyone. 

Because I am also a psychology professor, I try to give my patients some ways of thinking about being alone that psychologists have found are helpful.

Realize Loneliness Is a Label about Yourself Put on a Feeling

Being alone can create a feeling of emptiness, anxiety, dis-ease.  Humans are social animals with a need to bond with others.  When this need is not satisfied, there is a feeling of lack.  Yet, it is not the lack itself, but the label attached to this lack that creates the pain of loneliness. 

In trying to figure out why there is not someone there for you, you might label yourself as not loveable.  Or you think that something is wrong with you, which whomever you are with will quickly notice. That lonely feeling, then, comes from thinking of oneself as a loser.  And when you label yourself as a loser you lose the motivation to begin or renew a relationship with others.  You then isolate even more, creating the very conditions that are distressing you.

Notice and Then Change What You Are Saying to Yourself

If you thought of yourself as loveable you might be more comfortable being alone. And you might also be more willing to seek out opportunities to be with others. 

But how do you see yourself as more loveable? First, notice what you are saying to yourself that is not helpful. Are you labeling yourself as flawed and that everyone eventually will see those flaws? That is a sure way to not venture out of your shell. Now change the flawed message to one that is more helpful.  Identify some of your attractive qualities and remember these each time you see yourself negatively.  In this way, the flaws are balanced out with the attractive qualities. 

Reach Out to Others

Now you are ready to connect with others. Yes, you will have to initiate the connection. That can be uncomfortable but, if you are now giving yourself the message that you have some positive qualities to share with others, it might be a little easier to reach out to others.

Yet, another thought might quickly enter your mind and keep you from taking action to connect with others. You might be thinking, “When I’m with others I think they are constantly evaluating me—what I say, how I look, what I do.” That self-talk holds you back so you have to change it into something more helpful.

Challenge that thought by saying “I will focus on the other person instead of focusing on the anxiety I feel when I feel I’m being evaluated.” Focusing on the other person instead of yourself takes the pressure off of what you are feeling.

Let the other person know what you noticed or heard instead of worrying about what you should reply. Stay with this stance. Everyone wants to be acknowledged as noticed and heard. It starts the connection and it deepens it.

Where to Find Others

If you don’t have some friends or relatives that you can reconnect with, try volunteering to help others. Volunteering increases your sense of really mattering to someone, which is the opposite of what you might have been thinking when you were isolating. 

Think about who you would get the most satisfaction from helping.  Would it be children, teenagers, adults in special circumstances, senior citizens?  Then do an online search for where you might be most needed.  The search terms would be the name of your city and the word, “volunteer”.  Or, you can make the search more specific, by adding the name of the group you would like to help (e.g. neighbors, homeless, migrants, special needs). VolunteerMatch.com and CreateTheGood.com are two sites that list volunteer opportunities in your local community.  Not only would you be making a positive change in your community, you would be meeting other people who are also volunteering. And in this time of the Covid-19 crisis, so many people need so much help.

If you want to help but still want to stay home, there are many ways you can volunteer virtually.  You won’t have quite the same experience of connection but you are taking the first step in reaching out to others.

Thus, by opening up your mind and focusing on the needs and words of others you will start to recover from loneliness.

Finding Real Love Online

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You meet someone on line.  Then you text.  Then you Zoom or, if possible, meet for coffee.   But why, as the interaction increases, do so many of these possible lovers turn into duds?

Maybe it is because what is presented online is not who the person really is.  Or maybe it is because spending so much time with people online leaves no time to build relationship skills.

So, what should you look for online in a possible partner?  And how do you best present yourself online?

To find the partner you really want, make a list of the qualities of that person that you feel are important for a good relationship.  Consider whether you are looking for a short-term or a long-term relationship because, in one study, both men and women focused on sexual desirability when evaluating a prospective short-term relationship.  They cited qualities such as physical attractiveness and athleticism.  Yet, when a long-term relationship is desired, honesty, warmth, kindness, and intelligence were cited.

Next, prioritize these qualities.  The first three priorities will then become what you will look for in online descriptions.  A person who really has those qualities will list them rather than just presenting superficial desirable qualities.

If only one of the qualities you desire is listed, you can use later interactions to ask questions that might elicit the other qualities or even some surprising other desirable qualities.  For example, you could ask what qualities the online prospect is looking for.  Then you will know whether there is a mismatch in what you both are seeking. Or you could ask about a time when the person told a lie and how they felt about it. 

What you often do not see immediately online are some qualities that are red flags.  Everyone is initially trying to present an ideal self. And you might be so enamored at the beginning that you are blind to the subtle cues that indicate that person is not a keeper. Often, it isn’t until you are much deeper into the relationship that these red flags begin to show.  For example, does the person want others to do things their way; blow hot and cold; get highly threatened by differences of opinion?  (More of these red flags can be found in Beverly Palmer’s Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life).  We all show some of these characteristics some of the time but it is the insistence and persistence of them that create problems in relationships. 

How do you find out about characteristics that do not bode well for a long-term relationship when you are just interacting online?  One strategy is to ask how they would react in a given situation.  Ask, “If someone interrupted you when you were trying to tell them something important, what would you feel and what would you do?” Or, “Tell me about a time when you were disappointed because someone didn’t think or act the way you expected them to.”

Now focus on yourself. How are you presenting yourself online?  There is not a long list of qualities you have to have in order to be loveable.  There is only one main thing you have to do: listen to the other person.  Online communication or texting can present some impediments to getting the full message that is being communicated.  But, if you pause before shooting off your reply, you can pick up the essence of the message and you can let your partner know what that essence is.

Everyone wants to be listened to and acknowledged that they were heard.  Showing you have listened to others makes them feel appreciated and valued.  They then love you because you make them feel this way.

To listen closely enough to the other person to understand what they are trying to communicate is not easy.  First you have to de-center and focus on the other.  You have to let go of any anxiety or concern about how you should respond.  Focus entirely on the other person instead of what you are thinking or feeling.   After you have heard what was said, do not give your instant reaction.  Instead, repeat back the essence of what you heard.  After you have acknowledged that you understood what was communicated, you can say what is important to you.  Throughout your conversation you have to let the other person know you have listened before stating your point of view.

You might also want to assess how good of a listener the other person is.  Since two people showing they are really listening to each other could be the start of a loving relationship.

Regan, P.C., Levin, L., Sprecher, S., Christopher, F.S. & Gate, R. (2000). Partner preferences: What characteristics do men and women desire in their short-term sexual and long-term romantic partners?. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality. 12 (3), 1-21. https:// doi.org/10.1300/J056v12n03_0

How to Stay Connected on Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day Approaching, Try These Tips To Make This Day A Special One.

Does Valentine’s Day make you wish you had someone to love (and to love you)? Don’t despair—there are ways to dispel loneliness during the Valentine’s Day hype, and help get you out doing something you enjoy. When you are deeply involved in an activity with other people you have a common goal and interests that connect you. Frequent exposure to others increases their liking of you, so besides having an enjoyable time, you might find a new love by engaging in some of the following suggestions from Beverly B. Palmer, Ph.D., professor and clinical psychologist.

  • Volunteer

Think about who you would get the most satisfaction from helping.  Would it be children, the homeless, migrants, senior citizens?  Then, search online for where you might be most needed. VolunteerMatch.organd CreateTheGood.org are two sites that list volunteer opportunities in your community. Not only would you be making a positive change, you would be meeting others with similar values.

  • Foster or Adopt a Pet

You may find a pet to be a loving companion. A cat can give you comfort as it curls up on your lap, while a dog will get you out of your house on a daily basis where you will meet neighbors and other doggie lovers at the park. You then instantly have something in common with those around you and something to talk about. Petting a dog or cat releases the “love hormone”, oxytocin, in both the person’s and pet’s brains, according to a group of Swedish researchers.  Oxytocin creates a feeling of being loved and insures a strong bond, so your pet can help you feel less lonely.  Contact your local pet adoption group or borrow a friend’s pet before taking the plunge.

  • Join a Special Interest Group

If you have a hobby you could join a group of people who share that interest. Every city has an abundance of special interest groups, professional association functions, alumni events, and civic organization meetings. Find group activities on websites such as meetup.com. These may involve hiking, cooking, developing a new skill, discussing a topic, or participating in a sport.

  • Sign up for a Course or Fitness Center’s Program

If you have a regularly scheduled event where you are with other people, you already have a way not to be lonely during the upcoming Valentine’s Day.  Seek out adult classes that interest you at your local university, or join a gym.  Both men and women are attracted to the other’s sweat, reports a Swiss study, which explains why health clubs are such popular hunting grounds! Don’t forget to reach out and connect to others by asking for advice or noticing when someone needs help.  Don’t wait for someone to find you—smile and start talking with someone who is engaged in the activity with you.

  • Read a Good Book

Visit your library or bookstore. Selecting a book from browsing the shelves gives you an opportunity to interact with others before going home to read. Escape to another world through an engrossing fiction.  Learn something new through a helpful nonfiction book, such as Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life, which will give you even more suggestions on how to avoid the Valentine’s Day blues.

The Science Behind Why We Find Certain People Attractive

Five Ways Not to Be Lonely on Valentine’s Day

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Does the upcoming Valentine’s Day make you wish you had someone to love (and to love you)?  Do you miss a loved one?  Or do you just feel lonely?

Don’t despair—there are ways to feel less lonely during all the Valentine’s Day hype. 

Perhaps you have tried interacting with others on your smartphone or even with an online group. But recent studies have shown that we become even lonelier during screen time because it does not provide the meaningful, deep connection with others that we long for. 

To dispel loneliness get out of your house and get involved with an activity you like.  Besides having an enjoyable time, you might even find a new acquaintance, friend, lover.  Don’t wait for someone to find you—smile and start talking with someone nearby while engaged in the following activities.

Volunteer

               Think about who you would get the most satisfaction from helping.  Would it be children, teenagers, adults in special circumstances, senior citizens?  Then do an online search for where you might be most needed.  The search terms would be the name of your city and the word, “volunteer”.  Or, you can make the search more specific, by adding the name of the group you would like to help (e.g. homeless, migrants, special needs, hospitalized). VolunteerMatch.com and CreateTheGood.com are two sites that list volunteer opportunities in your local community.  Not only would you be making a positive change in your community, you would be meeting people who are also volunteering.

Foster or Adopt a Pet

                You may find a loving pet to be a loving companion.  A cat can give you warm, soft comfort as it curls up on your lap. A dog might even get you out of your house on a daily basis, where you might meet some of your neighbors.  Or you and your dog might meet other doggie lovers at a doggie park. Contact your local pet adoption group to foster or adopt a pet.

Join a Special Interest Group

                If you have a hobby or special area of interest, you could join a group of people who share that interest. Every city has an abundance of special interest groups.  Find one at meetup.com.  Some of the meetups in your city involve hiking, cooking, developing a new skill, discussing a topic, and participating in a sport.

Sign up for a Course or a Fitness Center’s Program

                If you have a regularly scheduled event where you are with other people, you already have a way not to be lonely during the upcoming Valentine’s Day.  Find classes at your local adult schools or universities that might interest you.  Join a fitness center.  And don’t forget to reach out to others by maybe asking for help with something.

Read a Good Book

                Visit your local library or bookstore. Selecting a book from browsing the shelves will give you an opportunity to interact with others before going home to read that book.  Escape to another world through an engrossing fiction book.  Learn something new through a helpful nonfiction book. One nonfiction book, Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life, will give you even more suggestions on how to dispel the Valentine’s Day blues.

Free Love Demystified Workbook

Front Cover 2

Starting June 29 and continuing through July 3 you can get the Kindle version of this workbook FREE.  Just click on this link: Free Love Demystified Workbook

This workbook contains more than a dozen questionnaires to assess your current love life.  Respond to these questionnaires to find out where you are now and what you are needing.  You can discover how intimate your current relationship is, how resilient you are, how romantic you are, and how empathetic you are.

Ask your partner to also complete these questionnaires to discover new things about your partner. You and your loved one might then want to share your responses, which can create a deeper intimacy.

From your and your partner’s responses you may find that there are some areas in your love life you want to improve.  Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life is a companion to the workbook and gives you tips and techniques to enhance your relationship.  You can purchase it on Amazon as either a Kindle edition or a paperback: Love Demystified Strategies

 

Podcast about Love

Recently I had a fun conversation with Brian Howie on The Great Love Debate.  We debated everything from what to watch out for when dating to how to make love last.  Listen to it here: Making Love Last

Podcast4.

Here’s How a Cluttered Garage Inspired Love

 

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Author and her new book (with an old backstory)

California State University, Dominguez Hills Professor Beverly Palmer and her book, “Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life.” 

Thursday, February 22, 2018 8:14 am  http://bit.ly/2oiEHg5

By Mary Jo Hazard Special to The News (Palos Verdes Peninsula News)

In the late 60’s, Beverly Palmer was a doctoral student in the counseling psychology department at Ohio State; she was fascinated by the mystery of love, and she wasn’t alone. Centuries before, Aristotle, Plato, and Shakespeare wrote about the subject, and Oscar Wilde even said, “The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death.”

Searching for answers to the age-old puzzle, Palmer researched the fields of social psychology, clinical psychology — even philosophy.

Several years later, Palmer and her husband moved to Rancho Palos Verdes, at the time an unincorporated rural area of Los Angeles. She was a full-time professor, teaching graduate and undergraduate classes at California State University, Dominguez Hills and, based on her scientific research, Palmer created and taught a class on love. Eager to share her findings with the general public, she wrote the first draft, “Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life.”

 In spite of her enthusiasm for her new project, Palmer was forced to stop working on the manuscript. “Private practice, childcare and teaching, took precedence,” she said.

Palmer was also fighting to save the rural nature of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

“The Los Angeles Board of Supervisors had jurisdiction over our unincorporated area,” she said. “They wanted to give approval for many high rise apartments and condos to be built along the coast at the bottom of Hawthorne Boulevard and Palos Verdes Drive South. I became part of Save Our Coastline, which circulated petitions and created the city of Rancho Palos Verdes so we could stop the coastal development.”

As a result of her activism for the coastline and her research articles in the field of public health, James Hayes, Los Angeles Board Supervisor for the Fourth District, appointed her to the Los Angeles County Public Health Commission where she served for three years.

During the 40 plus years that Palmer taught college courses at Dominquez Hills, love was always on her mind. “Each class I taught,” she said, “made me realize that all of the diverse subfields in psychology said something about loving relationships.”

Three years ago, Palmer’s husband insisted they clear out their cluttered garage, and up popped the old draft of Love Demystified. If it hadn’t been for the messy garage, her book might not have resurfaced.

Palmer dusted off her first draft and spent more time researching current scientific material and revising. “The book,” she said, “is based on the latest scientific research. It’s a guide highlighting how people meet, fall in love, create love, fall out of love, and love again. It offers strategies for dealing with roadblocks in love relationships and details how to create love and make it last.”

Who would benefit from her book? According to Palmer, “anyone longing for love, starting to date, getting married, or wanting to fix a current relationship.”

The “love doctor” knows her stuff. The Palmers celebrated their 50th anniversary last June, and the psychologist credits their happy marriage to living the strategies from her book. And that’s not all; they work together, too. Richard Palmer, a psychiatrist, and Beverly, a psychologist, have shared a private practice in Torrance for the last thirty years.

The book is available in neighborhood stores, at Booklocker.com, and on other online sites.

It’s Finally Released!

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With Valentine’s Day approaching, here is the perfect gift for yourself or your loved one:

Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life.

This guide uses cutting-edge psychological research to tell you how to find a new love, fix a current relationship, love again after a loss.  It gives you the tips and techniques you need to get through many difficult times in loving.

Available through the publisher (BookLocker.com/9605) or at all online and neighborhood booksellers.

Love Demystified Workbook

Workbook Cover

Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life will be released this week and the links for where it can be purchased will be posted on this blog.  Meanwhile, you might want to check out Love Demystified Workbook: Questionnaires to Assess Your Love Life.  This workbook contains 11 of the questionnaires that are in the regular Love Demystified book.  You can find out which areas in your love life that you might want to strengthen.  Then you can purchase the regular Love Demystified book to learn how to strengthen these areas.  The Love Demystified Workbook can be purchased from Amazon as a print book: http://amzn.to/2lPqJRK.

Or you can get the workbook free as an eBook if you are an Amazon Prime member or $2.99 for non prime members http://amzn.to/2COL82Q.

 

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