When’s the Last Time You Called Your Loved Ones? A Phone Call Could Save a Life
Get in touch with a loved one – it’s more powerful than you think.
Loneliness can be a serious problem. Witness the stark increase in mental health problems we saw worldwide when the global COVID-19 pandemic compelled so many people to suddenly live an essentially solitary life. Instances of depression, substance abuse, suicidal ideation (or actual self-harm), and other such problems skyrocketed.
And in fact, loneliness can be deadly. Think anecdotally of how often elderly people in otherwise good health suddenly decline after losing a longtime partner. In general, according to findings shared by the CDC, nearly 20% of adults over the age of 65 deal with depression, and much of this prevalence of the affliction can be traced to the loneliness older people often feel, being beyond the family rearing years, the working years, and, as noted, often losing a partner.
But there something you can do to help those people in your family and friend circle who may be lonely or depressed, and it’s valuable no matter what age they are and even if they are doing just fine, mental health-wise: just drop them a line. A quick phone call or note may brighten an already happy person’s day even more; so too may it be the point of brightness that help an ailing or depressed person make the turn back to wellbeing.
Getting in Touch Is No Small Gesture
A recent study has more than confirmed what you probably know innately – that being in social touch with people is a good thing, namely – but has in fact found that the benefits people get after sudden contact from a friend or family member are much greater than anticipated. The study concluded that both the physical and mental health of a person can be greatly improved when they receive a surprise contact from someone they care about.
Whether in the form of a call, a note, a gift, a text, and so forth, the study found that people respond with great favor to so-called out of the blue contact; these responses can include a better sense of happiness and wellbeing and release of various hormones that make our bodies feel and perform better. Note that the contact had to feel genuine and be a surprise in order to provide the biggest benefit – a call on one’s birthday means less than a random hello, that is – but that any contact is very beneficial to people, especially when they have limited contact with others.
As inherently social animals, a lack of contact with other human beings can lead to a sense of deprivation and oblivion, causing a person to suffer mentally and, eventually, physically as well. Caring contact from a friend or family member can make the difference between a life that remains positive and one that slips away from wellness.
It Takes So Little Effort to Do So Much Good
What can you get done in five or 10 minutes? Lots of little things, to be sure – perhaps you can make a pot of coffee, make the bed, or swipe through a bit of social media content. None of these things will have that much of lasting effect on your day, though – and there is little you can do in five or 10 minutes that will have a marked effect on your life.
However, the handful of minutes you spend to call, text, email, or even write a good old handwritten letter to a family member or friend could make all the difference to that person. A text with a picture of your kids sent to your parent could make that grandma or grandpa go from feeling lonely to feeling like a part of a family. A note recalling a funny anecdote from years ago could make your school buddy laugh out loud, pulling him or her out of an episode of depression. A friendly email to a former coworker may take two minutes to write and send but might make that person realize that the two years they spent working with you were valued.
These are but a few hypothetical examples of how a quick reach out to someone can require so little effort on your part but can do so much good for the other party. And if you have it in you to put in five or 10 (or even 15 or 20) minutes of outreach time each week, you may consider establishing a regular call, Zoom, or other communication method with the other person that genuinely could become like a lifeline to the world for that person.
Thinking on the Golden Rule
You know the so-called “Golden Rule” for life, right? That one little dictate that we should all live by that has been shared from parent to child (and teacher to student, priest to congregation, friend to friend, and so on) for generations: Do unto others as you would like to have done to yourself.
The Golden Rule is often thought of in a restrictive way; if you would not appreciate hearing a critique or insult, if you’d hate to be lied to or made use of, and so forth, then don’t do those unpleasant things to other people. But in fact, the Golden Rule works the other way, the positive way, just the same.
If you would simply love it if an old friend with whom you’d all but lost touch or a cousin who lived across the country or a former coworker who has long since switched careers suddenly called, texted, or emailed you, well then why not be the one who reaches out to them? If being surprised with contact from someone would make you feel good, it’s a more than safe bet that getting in touch with that person proactively will make them feel good, too. So be the person who breaks the silence and reaches out – and that’s a good idea whether there was something of a long ago falling out or if you merely drifted apart without anything but good will ever existing between the two of you.