TheConfidante In the Media
Sadly, we were already in the grip of a mental health crisis caused by trends in Australian society featuring shrinking households, greater tendency to be more mobile severing old-fashioned neighbourly friendships, the rate of separation and divorce, decreasing birth rate where we compensate with more pets instead (which isn’t all bad!) and the information technology boom that has us feeling more connected than ever before but more apart from each other!
Enter a pandemic then forced isolation and we ‘stack’ a sense of global fear to already high anxiety levels for many Australians.
As a human race, we are designed relationally and thrive on interaction with others. Loneliness is said to be in the top three social challenges facing Australia. We are created relationally; humans are social beings. When we feel loved, secure and attached to people and our surroundings, we flourish. Look beyond the real symptoms of anxiety and you’ll see the social fragmentation behind it. In my experience, loneliness and disconnection is the root cause of addictions.
Whilst it’s not all bad and we can use technology as a force for good such as using teleconferencing platforms to host a new Book Club or craft, Social Media “Watch parties”, chat groups, online exercise competitions and so on.
What this doesn’t cater for, is touch. This was highlighted by a client who was incarcerated for two years. He painfully described the devastating impact of the warmth and reassurance we take for granted from just a pat on the back or an “It will be ok” rub on the arm, let alone longing for that oxytocin inducing six-second hug. My Mum realised the power of connection from holding hands throughout 60 years of marriage she still misses so much since Dad died.
We don’t realise how much touch communicates positive emotions: joy, love, gratitude, and sympathy. Consider those elderly, isolated or unwell without the language of touch. I’m hearing of isolated virus-stricken patients dying alone quarantined in overseas hospitals without their loved ones.
Interestingly, I’ve become so accustomed to individuals rating themselves very poorly after they realise their cat or dog receives a far greater, attentive loving greeting than their intimate partner. That unconditional love from your ball of furry goodness that doesn’t whine about the unwashed dishes is inexplicable joy.
Being forced to walk an energetic dog longing for some action is an obvious benefit. Even those who pop that cat or small designer pup into a pram are still out exercising their lungs for the greater good. Dog owners can continue to enjoy socialisation at the doggy park or on the beach with the fresh air whilst getting physically fit and still meet the six feet social distancing suggestion.
Whilst the various research over the decades lack conclusive evidence that owning a pet translates to mental health, it makes sense that pet owners would have high levels of self-esteem, are less fearful and lonely.
Those that consider their pet as a “family member” benefit immensely from the love and connection that brings. During fearful times of doomsday reports and social distancing, those that live alone or in a small household can enjoy the sense of purpose that pets contribute. To experience the warm snuggle of a larger pet to a hungry, chirping budgie all contribute to a sense of belonging and purpose that otherwise could contribute to spiralling loneliness and depression.
Joanne Wilson is a neuropsychotherapist, relationship specialist, workshop facilitator and guest speaker. Tune into radio Salt106.5 each Friday morning for her co-host of the Morning Wakeup. Don’t miss more on these articles in her “Is This Love” Podcast and download your FREE relationship resources at www.relationshiprejuvenator.com
Joanne will be your Confidante, enabling you to speak freely in complete confidence and serenity. An integrated approach tailored to your specific needs will be utilised.
Relationship Specialist for Individuals and Couples servicing areas including Caloundra, Noosa, Noosaville, Buderim, Mountain Creek, Gympie.