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The book we need NOW to avoid a social recession, Murthy’s prescient message is about the importance of human connection, the hidden impact of loneliness on our health, and the social power of community.
Humans are social creatures: In this simple and obvious fact lies both the problem and the solution to the current crisis of loneliness. In his groundbreaking book, the 19th surgeon general of the United States Dr. Vivek Murthy makes a case for loneliness as a public health concern: a root cause and contributor to many of the epidemics sweeping the world today from alcohol and drug addiction to violence to depression and anxiety. Loneliness, he argues, is affecting not only our health, but also how our children experience school, how we perform in the workplace, and the sense of division and polarization in our society.
But, at the center of our loneliness is our innate desire to connect. We have evolved to participate in community, to forge lasting bonds with others, to help one another, and to share life experiences. We are, simply, better together.
The lessons in Together have immediate relevance and application. These four key strategies will help us not only to weather this crisis, but also to heal our social world far into the future.
Spend time each day with those you love. Devote at least 15 minutes each day to connecting with those you most care about.Focus on each other. Forget about multitasking and give the other person the gift of your full attention, making eye contact, if possible, and genuinely listening.Embrace solitude. The first step toward building stronger connections with others is to build a stronger connection with oneself. Meditation, prayer, art, music, and time spent outdoors can all be sources of solitary comfort and joy.Help and be helped. Service is a form of human connection that reminds us of our value and purpose in life. Checking on a neighbor, seeking advice, even just offering a smile to a stranger six feet away, all can make us stronger.
During Murthy’s tenure as Surgeon General and during the research for Together, he found that there were few issues that elicited as much enthusiastic interest from both very conservative and very liberal members of Congress, from young and old people, or from urban and rural residents alike. Loneliness was something so many people have known themselves or have seen in the people around them. In the book, Murthy also shares his own deeply personal experiences with the subject--from struggling with loneliness in school, to the devastating loss of his uncle who succumbed to his own loneliness, as well as the important example of community and connection that his parents modeled. Simply, it’s a universal condition that affects all of us directly or through the people we love—now more than ever.
The compassionate first book from former Surgeon General Murthy draws attention to loneliness as a major public health risk. Drawing on current research and on personal experience as a physician to show how social isolation can exacerbate ailments such as heart disease, as well as mental health issues, Murthy demonstrates that human connection is an innate need. With urgency but not stridence, he argues for a renewed culture of civic engagement to strengthen the "prepolitical layer of voluntary associations" that De Tocqueville identified as cohesive for American life. Rather than people who are experiencing loneliness themselves, Murthy's intended readership consists of those who want to help, whether as medical professionals, social workers, teachers, or community volunteers. He offers them plenty of encouragement, with success stories from his own experience with patients and from others' grassroots initiatives. As an example of how to strengthen the place of community in one's life, he describes how the Physician Moms' Group, formed by a stressed doctor and new mother trying to connect with others like herself, grew from 20 to 70,000 members. His gentle approach to the topic has profound implications for both individual health care and community wellness.