icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Diane Dreher's Tao of Inner Peace Blog

Are You Feeling Disconnected?

Little Free Library

This week on Next Door a man in the next town posted a message about not feeling a sense of neighborhood. He had lived in the same town for decades but over the years the neighborhood had changed. People moved away. New people had moved in and he now felt surrounded by strangers.


Dozens of people replied, saying they felt the same way—disconnected from community. Some blamed TV, social media, back yards instead of front porches, long commutes. But whatever the cause, many of us are feeling a sense of loneliness and isolation.[1]


We need community. Psychologists have found that even brief moments of connecting ---"micromoments of connectivity," can dramatically raise our mood, relieve stress, reduce inflammation, relieve loneliness, and build physical and emotional well-being.These connections can be shared not only with close friends and family members but the grocery store clerk or anyone else you encounter in daily life. A simple smile, eye contact, presence, perhaps a kind word—that's all it takes.[2]


To renew our neighborhoods and our lives, we need to cultivate community.  We all need a circle of support and "nourishing network" is one of the five key steps to rebuilding our capacity to hope [3].


We can cultivate community in many ways. One of my neighbors has set up a "Little Free Library" in front of her house. This little library has become a regular part of my daily walks with my little dog Ginny. I often leave some of my books in there, then check to see if anyone has taken them, and sometimes take out an intriguing book to read myself. This simple act of giving and receiving is building community, one book at a time.


There are other small steps we can take— Sharing a friendly greeting with people you see, waving at a neighbor driving by, stopping to admire a neighbor's garden and introducing yourself. Sending a thoughtful card. Calling up a friend to meet at a local coffee shop.


By cultivating community, you not only build your own circle of support, but help to create a more cooperative, connected world.



What is one way you can cultivate community today?




[1]  Winerman, L. (2022, May 9). COVID-19 pandemic led to increase in loneliness around the world. American Psychological Association.https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2022/05/covid-19-increase-loneliness; Ernst, M. et al. (2022). Loneliness before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A systematic review with meta-analysis. American Psychologist, 77(5), 660-677. 

[2] Fredrickson, B. (2013). Love 2.0: How our supreme emotion affects everything we feel, think, do, and become. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press

[3] Goetzke, K. (2022). The biggest little book about hope. (2nd edition). New York, NY: Morgan James Publishing. For more about her work, see https://kathryngoetzke.com/




Post a comment

One Person Who Cares

Growing up, children are often confused about who they are and what they can become. They don't need more information. Information comes at us from all directions—from parents, peers, teachers, and ever present social media. But recent research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has shown that  young people are suffering from record levels of depression and hopelessness and one in three teenage girls has considered suicide.[1]  


What young people need today is not more information but inspiration. They need hope. Research has revealed that it takes only one caring adult to make a difference in how young people see themselves and their future. Researchers Emmy Werner and Ruth Smith's classic longitudinal study has shown that knowing one supportive adult enables at-risk youth to overcome negative circumstances and lead successful, meaningful lives.


For over three decades, these researchers studied the lives of over five hundred young people on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Many came from dysfunctional families, compromised by chronic poverty and unstable home environments with divorce, discord, abuse, alcoholism, and mental illness. Yet some managed to flourish, overcoming their obstacles because of one person in their lives—an aunt, uncle, or grandparent, teacher, minister, coach, or neighbor who saw them, encouraged them, and helped them see beyond their current circumstances to believe in themselves and their future.[2]  


As research has shown, it only takes one caring adult to help a young person develop resilience. To experience this, please join me in this brief meditation.


  • Close your eyes and take a deep mindful breath and release it.
  • As you slowly breathe in and breathe out, can you recall the first adult who really saw you, who brought new hope to your life?
  • Who was this person--a teacher, coach, aunt or uncle, a helpful neighbor, scout leader, or someone else?
  • What did they do or say—a kind word, a meaningful conversation, a gesture of respect and understanding? Something else?


Pause and experience this for a moment. How do you feel?


Now ask yourself, "How can I be that one caring adult for a young person in my life today?"


I wish you joy on the path.



[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, February13). U.S. teen girls experiencing increased sadness and violence. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Newsroom. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2023/p0213-yrbs.html

[2] Werner, E. E. & Smith, R. S. (1992). Overcoming the odds; High risk children from birth to adulthood. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.


Be the first to comment