How to Find Yourself When You Feel Like You’ve Lost Your Way

HOW TO FIND YOURSELF WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’VE LOST YOUR WAY

Brett Larabie

You don’t need to be middle-aged to have a life crisis anymore. If you feel lost, read on if you need to know how to find yourself again.

If we’re honest, I’m only 23. I’ve had far more life crises than I should have at this point. It seems like on an almost daily basis, something goes wrong that makes me question everything. So, I know what it means to figure out how to find yourself again.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve changed my mind about my career. In high school, I said I was going to be a teacher. Then in my final year, college applications started to go out and I completely changed directions. I didn’t even apply to teacher’s college. I actually applied to an Environmental Science course.

Little secret? I’m graduating from Public Relations in a couple of months. That’s a bit of a jump, I suppose. I went down one path in life, and thought it was for me. Then, a year after graduation, I realized I needed to return to school because things just didn’t make sense anymore.

I was lost. I needed to find myself. Maybe you feel the same way now? We all have our moments in life when things just stop making sense. You need to find yourself, and you may need to find yourself several times in your lifetime. Find relief in the fact that this experience will happen to you again and again, but you’ll always find yourself again in the process.

How to know when you need to find yourself

Learning how to find yourself is one of the most challenging parts of life, but one of the more challenging parts is recognizing when it is necessary.

Feeling “stuck” is a sign you need a change of pace. Usually this means you strayed from who you truly are. You need to begin the task of finding yourself.

This could happen after the death of a loved one or a failed career move, or maybe after a physical move to a new city. Whatever it is, a big change in our lives often leads us to feeling lost and insecure.

The feeling is different for all of us. Once you tune into yourself and recognize that feeling, you never need to worry about it again. You immediately notice when you start to stray off your path and begin the journey to find yourself once more.

How to find yourself when you feel lost

Trust in the fact that your true self is still inside of you somewhere. They aren’t gone forever. It takes some work to find your roots, but rest assured that you will get there.

Repeat this process to find yourself time and time again but knowing who you are is something very valuable. Nobody can ever take that away from you. Never fear the process. Each time you find yourself again, you find new and exciting parts that you didn’t know existed before.

Life is all about rediscovering who you are as part of this big, wide world.

#1 Reconnect with your roots. Go back to square one, where it all began. That means something different for everybody. For me, it’s my family. Specifically, my mom. Who or what makes you feel like your truest form of yourself? This is usually where your values stem from, which, for a lot of people, means their families as well.

But for others, it could mean God, nature, an old friend, or in their childhood home. Whatever it is for you, reconnect with that piece of you.

#2 Reflect on who you are today. Would six-year-old you be proud? I know we hear this question a lot, but if you really sit down and reflect on this question, you may be surprised at the answers. Life is ever-evolving, and so are we. You will change, and that’s okay, but your roots should stay the same.

Think about who you used to be, in the purest state of your life as a child. Were you loud and confident, but now ashamed and afraid of expressing yourself? Did you use to be conservative and quiet, and now feel like you need to be obnoxious to be heard? Always revert back to six-year-old you when finding yourself.

#3 Do you enjoy spending time with yourself? You spend a lot of time with yourself in your lifetime. In fact, you are who you will spend the most time with. You should really consider this fact when you say and do things.

At the end of the day, can you sit alone in a room with yourself and enjoy the present company? If the answer is no, it’s time to find yourself, because you’ve lost your way somewhere along the line. The goal is to enjoy the quiet spaces between the busyness of life.

#4 Meditate. This is a rather eccentric idea to some, when it comes to knowing how to find yourself but it works. I’ve really seen the benefits of meditation, and it really is an excellent tool in the journey to finding your true self. If you can’t enjoy time spent with yourself, then nobody else can either.

Learn to appreciate your own thoughts and find direction through meditation. This is a great way to make life’s hardest decision seem like a walk in the park. Through meditation, you clear up the foggiest paths in your life at the present moment.

#5 Invest time in yourself. You can spend the rest of your life investing in high-profile businesses, but if you don’t invest in yourself, you will be the poorest person on earth. Again, you’re stuck with you, so you really need to make it mean something.

Take 30 minutes at the end of each day and devote it to yourself. Read a book, write in a journal, shut off your phone, drink tea, whatever you need to feel like yourself. Allow yourself to be selfish for 30 minutes each day, because we all know that the rest of the day is spent taking care of everyone around you. Maybe that’s exactly why you lost yourself in the first place—you didn’t cherish the person looking at you in the mirror.

#6 Get outside and enjoy nature. Some say that they are at their purest form when they are surrounded by nature. Leave the phone at home for one day and hit the trails. Bring your dog or a friend with you. Go for a hike, and bring a picnic with you. Go alone, or with friends, but regardless, get outside and breathe in the fresh air. It won’t do you any harm, I promise.

#7 Read self-improvement books. I know this is super 90’s, and seems like a cry for help, but there are countless books that are genuinely helpful for those who have lost their way.

There is an entire section at most book stores devoted to understanding how to find yourself. Clearly, people are buying these books! Don’t be ashamed to buy or read these books, because they could change your life.

#8 Write it out. Every counselor on the face of the planet tells you to “write about your feelings.” You probably put on a half-hearted grin and say “okay.” We both know you will write on the first page of a journal then leave it on your bedside table untouched for weeks. It’s not a popular tactic, because talking about our problems isn’t something we like to do.

If you want to truly understand how to find yourself, dig deeper. Figure out why you are lost in the first place, and writing is genuinely a wonderful way to do this. Yes, it’s hard, I’m not going to lie to you. But all things in life worth doing, aren’t easy things to do.

#9 Unplug. Technology has been a huge obstacle in our lives, let’s just be honest. Social media is crowded with negative interactions that literally drain you of your energy. It’s so easy to get lost in the online world, because we only show the world the parts of us that we genuinely like.

We lose the parts of ourselves that nobody claps for, but those are still part of us. Each and every part of us, makes us who we are. We can’t just throw away the parts we don’t like. Unplug from social media and technology in general for a little while, and completely immerse yourself in real-life conversations with people who appreciate every part of you.

#10 Make a change. I know I said that drastic life changes lead to us feeling lost, but sometimes change is what we need to pull us out of that state. If you feel like you just go through the motions then chances are you aren’t living up to your full potential. Change is a good thing, embrace it. Change might be exactly what you need to find yourself again.

#11 Call your “person.” Maybe it’s just me, but when I have a mini life crisis, I call my mom. My mom knows me best, and that’s great. Also, my mom isn’t afraid to tell me when I’m being a lunatic.

Sometimes, we freak out for nothing. We think our lives are falling apart before our eyes, when really things are falling into place. We all have that person that tells us like it is. Whoever that person is for you, call them and tell them what’s going on.

Before long, they remind you that you are a strong person who is freaking out over nothing, and everything is going to be okay. Sometimes we just need to hear that things are going to be okay.

It’s normal if you feel lost sometimes, but just remember that it is always possible to learn how to find yourself and get back to who you really are.

Nothing I Do is Good Enough for My Partner

NOTHING I DO IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR MY PARTNER

Patricia Cochran

Relationships often start with plenty of demonstrations of affection and appreciation for one another. There is a sense of “this person gets me and accepts me for who I am”. The infatuation makes you want to attend to even the silliest requests from your partner. Then one day, seemingly out of the blue, your partners request feels like demands that can’t be met. You feel confused and hurt that no matter what you do it’s never good enough to please them.

At first you chalk it up to some stress that has been going on in your lives. Soon you realize that your partner is constantly criticizing and blaming you. And things like this happen:

5 Things a Hard to Please Person Does

There is always an “if you just…then I would…” bargaining/ blaming statement happening. The bargaining portion serves the purpose of pretending you have a choice in behavior – you can do this or have the consequences. The blaming serves to keep you responsible for their behavior and entitlement. Their frustration that something isn’t to their liking is usually your fault for not following “the correct steps”. It is a trap that you constantly fall into because you want to “get it right”.

Their expectation can’t ever be achieved. Even when you do what they want the response is that you didn’t do exactly how they wanted, you took too long or you have to do more now. The standards are constantly changing. They might take over the task without letting you try, which causes insecurity and resentment for you.

You feel invalidated in your feelings and needs. If you express disagreement or disappointment you are met with “I didn’t mean it that way, so you shouldn’t feel that way.”

Every argument ends with you giving up and letting them have their way as if it was a game they need to win.

They compare the relationship and/or you to their ideal model. This idealization might come from someone in their lives (parents, former partner) or from beliefs about relationships. In any case you always lose since you’ll never be as good as their vision.

Now that you can safely identify that your partner can’t be pleased you are left with a question: Why? You have been blamed for their dissatisfaction for so long that it is hard to imagine other reasons for such mind games and control. Before you lose all hope of happiness it can be helpful to understand why.

The possible reasons:

High anxiety: Your partner could have a high level of anxiety that is alleviated through taking control of situations and people – especially you. Notice that you are not the only target of their criticism. There is a constant hyper-vigilance about what is going on around them and how they need to make it right. People with high anxiety are very critical of themselves as well as others. The dissatisfaction is due to a high standard that basically no one can achieve for being so idealized. There is a belief that anything and everything can always be better than it is.

“Your partner could have a high level of anxiety that is alleviated through taking control of situations and people – especially you.”

The world is unsafe: Critical people might have learned that the world is unsafe and you must be always on the offense and defense to not get hurt. The critical and controlling behaviors are to keep them with the upper hand in life. In this case you will notice a “winning behavior” – a need to be always right and “win” arguments no matter what.

Resentment: Something might have happened in the relationship that triggered the dissatisfaction. Your partner has resentments towards you that they neither express nor let go. This is a passive-aggressive (though it feels very aggressive to you) way of dealing with conflict that has to be addressed.

Role models:  Dysfunctional role models of what a relationship looks like can cause your spouse to not know how else to interact with you. Experiencing negative role models also has a side-effect of leading him or her to try and maintain control of the relationship so they are not hurt like their parents.

Finally, we get to the part that concerns you: What can you do about it? Resolving conflict always takes both partners engaging in the work. You also have responsibility to change the situation.

What you can do about it:

Accept that you have responsibility: You have been reinforcing this behavior by trying to please your spouse at any cost. Every time you give in and do what they want you are sending the message that it is OK to hurt you that way. However, responsibility doesn’t mean blame. It is not your fault that your partner became critical and possibly abusive. Accept that you have been enabling the behavior and use the knowledge to change interactions.

Set reasonable boundaries: It is OK for partners to make requests, but not demands. Set a boundary of what you are willing to work with your partner and how you expect to be asked to attend to their needs. Don’t allow name calling, shaming or invalidation of your feelings. If needed take time out to cool off and re-engage in discussion later.

The Couple’s Guide to Fighting Better: Focus On the Issue

THE COUPLE’S GUIDE TO FIGHTING BETTER: FOCUS ON THE ISSUE

Kyle Benson

Love can be a battleground of mistakes, misunderstandings, and conflicts. Oftentimes when we want to discuss a specific conflict with our partners, we also want the floor to discuss EVERY conflict with our partner; every one of their 617 boneheaded mistakes. After all, we are an “expert” analyst of our partner’s behavior and personality disorders.

Meet Jasmine. Jasmine is a full-time employed mother of two. She’s married to Brian, a hard working business owner with 64 employees. Jasmine and Brian strive to be a super couple; the kind of couple that exhausts themselves trying to do it all.

Their childhood upbringing has taught both of them to be overachieving perfectionists who put a lot of pressure on themselves to be “happily married.”

Most of this pressure comes from Jasmine. She wants the best orgasms, a passionate sex life, millions in the bank account, and two adorable and successful kids. All this weight causes a lot of problems with Brian.

In her mind, Brian doesn’t help out with the children or house nearly enough. He doesn’t dedicate enough time to their relationship and he isn’t making enough money. Needless to say, Jasmine’s Love Laws puts Brian in Relationship Jail pretty frequently. As a result, she shames him. She makes him feel inadequate. She treats him this way so much that he has started to spend more time working than he does at home.

For Brian, work is a safe haven from the war at home. As Jasmine starts to realize their relationship is in trouble, she devours books on healthy relationships like a fat kid at a cupcake store. She heard about John Gottman’s famous State of the Union meeting that was created to resolve relationship conflicts. So she schedules a meeting to “talk” with Brian about their current conflicts.

Because she’s so eager to start the meeting, Jasmine takes the lead as the speaker. She tells Brian the role of the listener according to what she can remember: “just listen to me and don’t get defensive.”

Unfortunately Jasmine hits Brian so hard with criticism that his helmet in the football game of love pops right off. This leaves him vulnerable to a siege of attacks from his lover, who brings up every issue under the sun. His lack of help with the children. His lack of effort in keeping the house clean. His routine sexual performance that feels more like clockwork and less like lovemaking.

Hearing all this makes Brian feel inadequate. Something back in his childhood made him sensitive about that feeling. His body floods with negative emotions. Despite trying to do his best to “listen,” he emotionally shuts down to calm his anxiety.

Jasmine notices this and hits him even harder.
“You never listen to me.”
“What is wrong with you?”

By now, this relationship is on the road to the Hell, whether it be divorce or infidelity. But there are many lessons we can learn from this.

Pick One Issue and Be Specific

Instead of bringing up every issue under the sun, focus on one particular issue and stay on topic. Be detailed. Instead of saying, “you never help out around the house,” say, “It makes me feel abandoned when I feel like it is my responsibility to vacuum the house every week. On top of that, I have other chores I feel like I have to do to keep this house running. Would you be able to vacuum every other week for me?”

Telling someone they make you feel insecure gives them no feedback to change their behavior. However, telling your partner that you feel insecure when they make fun of you in front of your friends will allow them to fix that specific situation.

By focusing on one issue and the specific emotions it causes you (not your partner’s flaws), both of you can come together to fix that specific situation by changing both the meaning of the situation and each other’s behavior.

Avoid Your Partner’s Triggers

Lastly, be aware of your partner’s triggers. No one grows up without emotional scars. These lasting flaws can escalate conflict quickly. Tom Bradbury, a UCLA psychologist, calls these enduring vulnerabilities.

Imagine your partner’s weaknesses are tattooed on their forehead. What might your partner’s weaknesses and insecurities be? When they get blamed, do they immediately become defensive? Do they hate being lectured because it makes them feel inadequate?

Brian’s vulnerabilities of not providing enough make him feel inadequate. It causes him to close off from his relationship and the things he cares about. When his trigger is hit, it’s easier to become numb than to feel the pain of all his past traumas rising in the present.

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Your partner’s childhood baggage may be a source of problems in your relationship but it is unrealistic to expect that he or she will fix them immediately. Prodding or insisting them to “change” will only worsen the situation.

What you can do is prevent a particular vulnerability from causing friction by acknowledging it and working around it with compassion. If you know your boyfriend is sensitive about feeling left out, be kind when suggesting that he should stay at home so you can go out with your friends for a girl’s night. You could say something like “I love going out with my friends and you because we always have a good time. But would it be okay if I just went out with them tonight? I’d like to catch up with them on a more intimate level.”

Or maybe your girlfriend is a tad messy, and resents her childhood upbringing of rigid house rules. She may even appreciate a break when it comes to her messy clothes on the chair in the bedroom.

During my own relationship conflicts, I’ve found it helpful to remind myself that my partner is learning to work with my insecurities, just like I am with hers. Love isn’t always a comfortable ride. But having a partner who will drive around your potholes, while still addressing the underlying issues, is a partner you should keep.

How to Fight if Your Marriage Matters

HOW TO FIGHT IF YOUR MARRIAGE MATTERS

Kyle Benson

Tough marriage conflicts can turn into a perfect storm.

They can flood the streets of love with the sewage of personal attacks. From what I’ve learned, beating up a loved one is never a fair fight. You know their deepest vulnerabilities, their most important values. This gives you the power to structure what you say in a way that cuts them down with a machete of words.

Have you ever wondered why we do this? Why we intentionally hurt the one we love? Have you ever wondered why we shut down and become “emotionally unavailable” to our partners when they confront us on something that could improve our marriage?

The problem with intense conversations is that they confront the beliefs we hold about our relationship, ourselves, and our partners.

So when something threatens to contradict the beliefs we hold about how things are, our bodies flood with chemicals that increase our heart rate. Our bodies prime to run away or fight and defend our point.

This Happens in Three Stages

Stage 1: We feel shocked by our partner’s comments, actions, or lack thereof. Maybe they are blaming us or accusing us of doing something we didn’t. Either way, our bodies become tense as we experience something we didn’t expect.

Stage 2: We can’t calm down. As our insides flood, we become anxious. We feel as if our life is at stake. The more flooded we feel, the more likely we turn into a reptile. Emotionally flooded people and reptiles have two characteristics: they lack a sense of humor, and they eat each other.

Our heart rate skyrockets and our automatic instinctive reactive emotions take control of our thoughts and actions. The notion of “choosing” is erroneous because the section of our brain that chooses, our neocortex, is no longer in control. The idea of fighting fair is abandoned because reptiles never fight fair.

As we are emotionally hijacked, we become deaf to any positive things our partner may be saying. The narrator of our minds may take on a negative story of us. We blame our partners for the problem. We find flaws in everything they say or do.

And we tell them so.

Stage 3: Emotional Shutdown
If we continue to become flooded without resolve, we eventually become numb to our hurt. It becomes so overwhelming that we block it out completely. According to John Gottman’s research, men tend to become emotionally hijacked easier and stay flooded longer. Since we struggle to soothe ourselves and calm down, we withdraw and go ice-cold to protect ourselves.

From my own experiences, doing so has brought a sense of relief in the heat of a fight. The only problem is that shutting down only makes my partner’s heart rate increase, causing them to flood more. This only escalates the conflict.

Emotional flooding is a major reason why humans suck at tough relationship conversations. In fact, John Gottman’s research indicates that repeated flooding in marriages is a predictor of divorce. Flooding again and again, changes The Story of Us causing us to start to see our partners in a negative light. That light guides us towards the path of betrayal or singlehood.

So how can we not lose it during relationship conflicts? Here are the six steps I use and teach my clients:

The Marriage Conflicts Peace Treaty

Step 1: Awareness. I become aware that I feel like I am under attack by my partner. Sometimes I use the Instant Heart Rate Iphone App to notice how elevated my heart rate is. During emotional flooding, our heart rate can jump up to 20 or 30 beats per minute. My average heart rate is 65 BPM,1 so if my heart rate jumps to the 80’s while I am sitting down and having a conversation, I know my body feels like it is in a war zone.

You can also feel this in your body. You’ll feel overwhelmed. Anxious. You might desire to attack your partner. Be aware of how your body feels.

Step 2: Assert my Flooding. Once I have the awareness I am flooded, I tell my partner that we have to stop talking because I feel like I am going to start attacking her. This isn’t easy to do, but it prevents me from eating her vulnerabilities alive. You can say things like, “I’m losing it.” “I’m flooded and want to attack you.” “I’m getting upset.”

Step 3: Schedule a time to continue the conversation. This is vital if my partner brought up the argument. When I first learned to assert my flooding, I would get the space I need, but I would avoid the conversation next time I saw my partner. Over the following weeks, she would stew over her unresolved problem and tension between us would increase until we fought about it again.

Committing to your partner to continue the conversation allows them to calm down and realize that you can’t control your emotions in the present moment. But they know when you can, you want to solve the problem at hand.

Step 4: Non-negotiated distance. It’s your responsibility to calm yourself down and take care of your flooded state. This is non-negotiable with your partner. You need your space, otherwise your words and actions are going to nuke the love right out of the relationship. John Gottman’s research states that we should take a 20 minute break and emotionally distance ourselves from the conflict.

I go on a 25-minute walk while listening to my favorite songs. Other people play video games or find challenging tasks that consumes their cognitive awareness.

During this time, it’s vital that you think good thoughts about your partner. It’s very easy to stay in your defensive state and stew over feeling righteous, replaying wounding words your partner said, or allow yourself to feel like a victim. The problem is this only escalates flooding. Instead, ask yourself what is good and true about your significant other. Focusing on the good will not only soothe your emotions, you’ll also realize that they are not out to eat you alive!

Step 5: Note triggers. Ask yourself what caused yourself to turn into a reptile. Was it a word your partner said? A way your partner moved? By noting the triggers that cause your flooding, you can help them learn how to discuss uncomfortable topics without drowning you in your own emotions.

FYI – If you know your partner’s triggers, it’s your responsibility to not be a dick. Don’t push those buttons.

Step 6: Soothe each other. Before you bring up the topic of discussion, talk with your partner about what caused you to flood. Thank them for allowing you to take space to keep the relationship intact.

“I’m thankful you let me stop before I said things I regretted.”
“I felt triggered when you mentioned that you needed more space. I think I fear being abandoned by you.”

Battling and becoming aware of our instinctual reactions that cause a perfect storm in love is not easy, but the more times you practice the six steps above, the easier it will become. The healthier and happier your relationship will become. Remember, when emotions become tense, love becomes nonsense. If you want your marriage to last, give it the space it needs to breathe when the fire gets too hot.

  1. For reference. The average 30 year old man’s heart rate is 76. It’s 82 for women of the same age. 

1 More Way to Quiet the Negative Voices Inside You

1 MORE WAY TO QUIET THE NEGATIVE VOICES INSIDE YOU

Angel Chernoff

It’s Sunday, and I want to remind you of another effective method for quieting that negative inner voice of yours. But first, let’s examine a super-common mistake negative people make…

Negative people are often proud to describe themselves as “realists.” Of course, anyone who holds a strong belief thinks they are being “realistic” by holding it, whether it involves UFO encounters or perfectly truthful politicians.

The “being more realistic” declaration is a favorite of cynics everywhere. And in a way they are correct. But only because negative thinking causes us not to try – or if we do try, to do it half-heartedly and give up sooner – so the negativity itself influences our outcomes. Self-fulfilling predictions like this really do happen. Research has even found that in some cases what we believe about our health can have more bearing on how long we live than our actual health.

What makes all of this so scary is the fact that it means negative thoughts can plague us even when things seem to be going relatively well. For instance, the thought “It’s too good to last!” quickly wrecks havoc on a positive situation. Thus, my tip today has to do with how negative thinking can distort your perception…

Stop yourself from over-generalizing the negative (and minimizing the positive).

Ask yourself: “If something negative unexpectedly happens, do I over-generalize it? Do I view it as applying to everything and being permanent rather than compartmentalizing it to one place and time?”

For example, if someone turns you down for a date, do you spread the negativity beyond that person, time, and place by telling yourself: “Relationships never work out for me, ever”? If you fail an exam do you say to yourself, “Well, I failed that exam; I’m not happy about it, but I’ll study harder next time”? Or do you over-generalize it by telling yourself you’re “not smart enough” or “incapable of learning”?

Remember, negative thinking stops us from seeing and experiencing positive outcomes, even when they happen often. It’s as if there’s a special mental block filtering out all the positives and only letting in data that confirms the ‘negative bias.’ So, do your best to catch yourself today.

Being able to distinguish between the negativity you imagine and what is actually happening in your life is an important step towards living a happier life.

And of course, if you’re struggling with any of this, know that you are not alone. Many of us are right there with you, working hard to feel better, think more clearly, and get our lives back on track.

How to Reconnect With Your Partner After Having Kids

HOW TO RECONNECT WITH YOUR PARTNER AFTER HAVING KIDS

Christina Caron

First things first: This is not another article that simply tells you to “go on a date night.”

Nothing against date nights. The best ones can remind you why you fell in love with your spouse or partner in the first place.

Or they can involve staring at each other in a sleep-deprived haze over an expensive meal while intermittently glancing at your phone for updates from the babysitter.

If date nights aren’t working for you, or if you’ve been struggling to maintain intimacy for months — or even years — after having children, here are some different ways to stay close to your spouse or partner, despite the stresses and frustrations of parenthood.

Try not to become complacent.

Just as there was never a perfect time to have children, there will rarely be a perfect time to rekindle a connection with your partner.

It’s easy to push your romantic relationship to the side: “Let’s get through sleep training first.” Or: “As soon as I get back into shape.” Or: “Maybe when I’m less tired.”

Then winter arrives. “Everyone’s sick again? Let’s wait until we get better.”

But if you keep waiting, experts say, regaining intimacy can become increasingly difficult.

“It seems to have been the norm for so many couples to say to themselves, ‘Now that the kids are here, we’ll focus on the kids. Our day will come,’” said Michele Weiner-Davis, a marriage and family therapist whose TEDx talk about sex-starved marriages has been viewed more than 5 million times. “But here’s the bad news from someone who’s been on the front lines with couples for decades. Unless you treat your relationship, your marriage, like it’s a living thing — which requires nurturing on a regular basis — you won’t have a marriage after the kids leave home.”

Couples may start to lead parallel but separate lives — and discover they have nothing in common.

“They’re looking at a stranger, and they ask themselves, ‘Is this the way I want to spend the last few years of my life?’” Ms. Weiner-Davis said. “And for too many couples the answer is no.”

But all of that is preventable, she added.

“It’s absolutely essential not to be complacent about what I call a ho-hum sex life. Touching is a very primal way of connecting and bonding,” Ms. Weiner-Davis said. “If those needs to connect physically are ignored over a period of time, or are downgraded so that it’s not satisfying, I can assure people there will be problems in the relationship moving forward.”

Slow down and start over.

If you had a vaginal birth, you and your partner may expect to begin having sex as early as six weeks after the baby is born, if you have been physically cleared to do so.

For some couples, that signals “the clock is now ticking,” said Emily Nagoski, author of “Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life.”

But a lot of women simply won’t be ready that early. And that’s O.K.

“After the postpartum checkup, I didn’t feel like myself, I didn’t feel physically ready to have sex,” said Emily Stroia, 33, who lives in Los Angeles. “In terms of libido, I didn’t really have one.”

Ms. Stroia, the mother of a 10-month-old, eventually starting having sex with her partner once a month — but before she became pregnant, they had sex nearly every week, she said.

“I still kind of forget that I’m in a relationship,” said Ms. Stroia, who is struggling with sleep deprivation. “I have to remind myself that I have a partner.”

After any potential medical problems are ruled out, Dr. Nagoski advises couples to “start over” with one another by establishing a sexual connection in much in the same way they might have done when they were first getting to know each other: making out, holding each other and gradually moving in the direction of bare skin.

That’s especially important if there’s a birth parent involved, she added.

“That person’s body is brand-new,” Dr. Nagoski said. “The whole meaning of their body has transformed.”

It also helps to remember that “intimacy isn’t just hot sex,” said Rick Miller, a psychotherapist in Massachusetts.

“It’s steadfast loyalty, a commitment to getting through stressful times together and, most importantly, enjoying the warm, cozy moments of home together,” Mr. Miller said.

Put on your life preserver first.

Taking the time to nurture your individual physical and emotional needs will give you the bandwidth to nurture your relationship, too, so that it doesn’t feel like another task on the to-do list.

“When you experience your partner’s desire for intimacy as an intrusion, ask yourself, ‘How deprived am I in my own self-care? What do I need to do to take care of myself in order to feel connected to my own sexuality?’” said Dr. Alexandra Sacks, a reproductive psychiatrist and host of the “Motherhood Sessions” podcast.

That might mean going to the gym or talking to your partner about decreasing the invisible mental load that is often carried by one parent.

Enlisting the support of your family (or your chosen family) to take some time for yourself or discuss some of the struggles that accompany parenting can help you recharge.

“Relying on others is an indirect way of working on intimacy,” Mr. Miller said.

This is especially important for gay couples, he added, who may not typically share vulnerabilities “because the world hasn’t been a safe place.”

Practicing self-care as a couple is equally important.

Dr. Sacks recommends making a list of everything you used to do together as a couple that helped you feel close, and thinking about how those rituals have changed.

Is your toddler sleeping in your bed, spread out like a sea star between you and your partner? Have you stopped doing the things together you used to really enjoy like working out or going to the movies? Dr. Sacks recommends thinking about how you’re going to make an adjustment in order to create physical and emotional intimacy with your partner.

For example, if you always used to talk about your day together and now that time is completely absorbed by caregiving, the absence of that connection will be profound.

“You can’t just eliminate it and expect to feel as close,” she said.

Think about what turns you on.

According to Dr. Nagoski, one way to nurture intimacy is to remind yourselves of the context in which you had a great sexual connection together.

What characteristics did your partner have? What characteristics did your relationship have?

Then, she said, think about the setting.

“Were we at home with the door locked? Were we on vacation? Was it over text? Was it at a party in a closet at a stranger’s house against a wall of other people’s coats? What context really works for us?” Dr. Nagoski said.

When doing this exercise, and when thinking about your current libido (or lack thereof) it’s also helpful to remember that not everyone experiences spontaneous desire — the kind of sexual desire that pops out of nowhere. For example, you’re walking down the street and suddenly can’t stop thinking about sex.

Millions of other people experience something different called responsive desire, which stems from erotic stimulation. In other words, arousal comes first and then desire.

Both types of desire are normal.

Create a magic circle in your bedroom.

Dr. Nagoski suggested cordoning off an imaginative protected space in your mind where you can “bring forward the aspects of your identity that are relevant to your erotic connection and you close the door on the parts of yourself that are not important for an erotic connection.”

With enough focus, this strategy can work even if the physical space you’re using contains reminders of your role as a caregiver.

It can also help to think of your bedroom as a sanctuary, advised Ms. Weiner-Davis.

For couples who have spent years co-sleeping with their children, that can be somewhat difficult.

“I do believe there comes a point where it’s important to have those boundaries again,” Ms. Weiner-Davis said.

Don’t bank on spontaneity.

It’s easy to forget how much time and effort we put into our relationships in the early days: planning for dates, caring for our bodies and (gasp) having long conversations with one another.

“People feel sort of sad when they get that news that yes, it does require effort to build a connection across a lifetime,” Dr. Nagoski said. “You don’t just dive in — you don’t just put your body in the bed and put your genitals against each other and expect for it to be ecstatic.”

Karen Jeffries (a pen name she uses as a writer and performer to protect her privacy) said her sex life with her husband is better than ever after having had two children. They’ve always had a strong physical connection, she said. But they also plan ahead and prioritize.

“There are times where I’ll text him and I’ll be like, ‘We’re having sex tonight,’ and he’ll be like ‘O.K.’ or vice versa,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll send him a picture of a taco and he’ll send me a picture of an eggplant.”

Ms. Jeffries, 37, a fourth-grade dual-language teacher in Westchester County, N.Y., is the author of “Hilariously Infertile,” an account of the fertility treatments she endured to conceive her two daughters. Her children, now aged 6 and 4, are on a strict sleep schedule with a 7:30 p.m. bedtime, allowing for couple time in the evening.

Think of building good sexual habits just like you would develop good eating or exercising habits, she advised.

“Sex begets more sex. Kind of like when you go to the gym,” she said. “It takes you a while to build that habit.”

Then, she added, “You’ll notice little by little that it becomes more and more as opposed to less and less.”

Consider therapy.

A small 2018 study found that attending group therapy helped couples with low sexual desire as well as those who had discrepancies in their levels of sexual desire.

Individual or couples therapy can also be a good place to start.

For many parents, however, and especially those with young children, finding the time and money to go to a therapist can be challenging.

Esther Perel, a psychotherapist whose TED talks on sexuality and relationships have been viewed by millions, offers an online course, currently $199, that includes a section called “Sex After Kids.”

Ms. Perel also hosts the popular “Where Should We Begin?” podcast, in which couples share the intimate details of their troubles during recorded therapy sessions.

number of other podcasts also offer advice to couples, including “Marriage Therapy Radio” and “Relationship Advice.”

Regardless of what steps you take to rebuild a connection with your spouse, experts say it’s important to take action as soon as possible.

“The child is not going to take up less space over time,” Dr. Sacks said. “So the question is: How do you carve out space for your relationships around the child, as the child continues to develop with different but continually demanding needs.”

7 Hard Things You Should Start Doing for Others

7 HARD THINGS YOU SHOULD START DOING FOR OTHERS

Marc Chernoff

Don’t just rant online for a better world. Love your family. Be a good neighbor. Practice kindness. Build bridges. Embody what you preach. Today. And always.

About a decade ago, at one o’clock in the morning, my grandpa who was suffering from Alzheimer’s got up, got into my car and drove off. Angel and I contacted the police, but before they could find him, two college kids pulled into our driveway with my grandpa. One was driving him in my car and the other was following in their car. They said they overheard him crying about being lost at an empty gas station 10 miles away. My grandpa couldn’t remember our address, but gave the kids his first and last name. They looked him up online, found our address, and drove him home.

I was randomly reflecting on that incident today while sitting near the edge of a beautiful ocean-side cliff in San Diego. As I stared off into the distance, the sudden awareness of footsteps behind me startled me. I turned around to see a young lady who was almost in tears slowly walking to where I was sitting. I jumped up, walked up to her and asked, “What’s wrong?” She told me she was deathly afraid of heights, but was worried about my safety and wanted to get over her fear because she needed to make sure I was okay.

“You were sitting so close to the edge, and with a such despondent expression,” she said. “My heart told me I needed to check on you—to make sure you were in a healthy state of mind.” Her name is Kate, and her braveness and kindness truly warmed my heart.

I’ve spent the rest of the day thinking about what an extraordinary person Kate is, and about those amazing college kids who helped my grandpa, and about what it means to be a kind and giving person. As Kate and those kids found out, being kind isn’t always easy. Sometimes you have to go the extra mile, or face your biggest fears, or stand up against your own negative tendencies to make a positive difference in someone else’s life. Let this be your wake-up call today. It’s time to start doing the hard things—the right things—for others…

1. Start being a source of sincere support.

The closest thing to being cared for is to care for others. We are all in this together and we should treat each other as such. The very demons that torment each of us, torment others all over the world. It is our challenges and troubles that connect us at the deepest level.

If you think about the people who have had the greatest positive effect on your life—the ones who truly made a difference—you will likely realize that they aren’t the ones that tried to give you all the answers or solve all your problems. They’re the ones who sat silently with you when you needed a moment to think, who lent you a shoulder when you needed to cry, and who tolerated not having all the answers, but stood beside you anyway. Be this person for those around you every chance you get.

2. Start giving people your undivided attention.

There is greatness and beauty in making time, especially when it’s inconvenient, for the sake of someone nearby.

You don’t have to tell people that you care, just show them. In your relationships and interactions with others, nothing you can give is more appreciated than your sincere, focused attention. Being with someone, listening without a clock and without anticipation of results is the ultimate compliment. It is indeed the most valued gesture you can make to another human being.

When we pay attention to each other we breathe new life into each other. With frequent attention and affection our relationships flourish, and we as individuals grow wiser and stronger. We help heal each other’s wounds and support each other’s growth. So give someone the gift of YOU—your time, undivided attention and kindness. That’s better than any other gift, it won’t break or get lost, and will always be remembered.

3. Start respecting and supporting people who are different than you.

Life’s greatest privilege is to become who you truly are. You have to dare to be yourself, one hundred percent, however anxious or odd that self may prove to be. The people who support you in doing so are extraordinary. Appreciate these people and their kindness, and pay it forward when you’re able.

Never bully someone into silence. Never victimize others for being different. Accept no one’s close-minded definition of another person. Let people define themselves. You have the ability to show people how awesome they are, just the way they are. So act on this ability without hesitation; and don’t forget to show yourself the same courtesy.

4. Start being willing to be wrong.

The mind is like a parachute; it doesn’t work when it’s closed.

It’s okay to disagree with the thoughts or opinions expressed by others. But that doesn’t give you the right to immediately reject any sense they might make. Nor does it give you a right to accuse someone of poorly expressing their beliefs just because you don’t like what they are thinking and saying. Learn to recognize the beauty of different ideas and perspectives, even if it means overcoming your pride and opening your mind beyond what is comfortable.

Healthy relationships and human interactions are not a power struggle. Be willing to be wrong, while simultaneously exploring your truth.

5. Start giving recognition and praise for the little things.

A brave, extraordinary soul recognizes the strength of others. Give genuine praise whenever possible. Doing so is a mighty act of service. Start noticing what you like about others and speak up. Having an appreciation for how amazing the people around you are is extremely rewarding. It’s an investment in them that doesn’t cost you a thing, and the returns can be astounding. Not only will they feel empowered, but also what goes around comes around, and sooner or later the people you’re cheering for will start cheering for you too.

Also, be sure to follow this rule: “Praise in public, penalize in private.” Never publicly ridicule someone when you have the option not to. If you don’t understand someone, ask questions. If you don’t agree with them, tell them. But don’t judge them behind their back to everyone else.

6. Start giving people the space to save face.

What others say and do is often based entirely on their own self-reflection. When someone who is angry and upset speaks to you, and you nevertheless remain very present and continue to treat them with kindness and respect, you place yourself in a position of great power. You become a means for the situation to be graciously diffused and healed.

A spiritual teacher once told me, “When somebody backs themselves into a corner, look the other way until they get themselves out; and then act as though it never happened.” Allowing people to save face in this way, and not reminding them of what they already know is not their most intelligent behavior, is an act of great kindness. This is possible when we realize that people behave in such ways because they are in a place of great suffering. People react to their own thoughts and feelings and their behavior often has nothing directly to do with you.

7. Start being a bit more gentle.

Be gentle and compassionate with those around you. Mother Nature opens millions of flowers every day without forcing the buds. Let this be a reminder not to be forceful with those around you, but to simply give them enough light and love, and an opportunity to grow naturally.

Ultimately, how far you go in life depends on your willingness to be helpful to the young, respectful to the aged, tender with the hurt, supportive of the striving, and tolerant of those who are weaker or stronger than the majority. Because we wear many hats throughout the course of our lives, and at some point in your life you will realize you have been all of these people.

Now, it’s your turn…

The bottom line is that it’s time to be less impressed by your own money, titles, degrees, and looks. And it’s time to be more impressed by your own generosity, integrity, humility, and kindness towards others.

Don’t you agree?

Please leave us a comment and share your thoughts.

What part of this post resonated with you the most?

After a Miscarriage, Grief, Anger, Envy, Relief and Guilt

AFTER A MISCARRIAGE, GRIEF, ANGER, ENVY, RELIEF AND GUILT

Jessica Grose

October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month, and if your family has experienced any kind of loss, we are here for you. Miscarriage is common — as many as 15 percent of known pregnancies end in a first-trimester loss. We have guides on miscarriagestillbirth (far less common and incredibly heartbreaking), ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilized egg lands somewhere other than the uterus, also rare),and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

***

I had a miscarriage in between my two girls. I went in for an ultrasound at around seven weeks, and there was no heartbeat. My period is so irregular that I had to wait two additional weeks to confirm that the pregnancy was not progressing properly. My obstetrician couldn’t definitively date the pregnancy because he couldn’t definitively date the ovulation, so I trudged to multiple radiologists for multiple disappointing ultrasounds over 14 days.

I expected to feel sad during this painful two-week wait, and after — and I absolutely did. A guttural sadness that would take months to lift.

What I didn’t anticipate was that I would feel a lot of other things, and that the emotional ground would continue to shift under my feet. I felt relief when I was able to take a new job right around when I would have been due to give birth; I knew I wouldn’t have been able to take it had I carried that pregnancy to term. Then I felt guilty about feeling relieved. I felt anger — spiky and random, popping up unexpectedly and without apparent trigger. And most appalling to me was the envy I felt toward women who were pregnant, successfully. An acquaintance of mine was due around when I would have been, and I could not stand to be around her during her pregnancy. When she tried to make plans, I made excuses.

There’s a myriad of responses to loss, said Julia Bueno, a psychotherapist and the author of “The Brink of Being: Talking About Miscarriage.” “There may well not be any grief,” Bueno said, and the grief some women feel is “exquisitely nuanced, powerful and profound.” If the miscarriage is in the first trimester, it may also be hidden, Bueno said, because you don’t always look pregnant to the outside world, and it’s not customary to reveal a pregnancy until you’re past 12 weeks.

Partners of pregnant women may also feel a range of emotions. As technology allows us to know we’re pregnant just after a missed period, it allows partners to become bonded to babies far earlier than they might have been in previous generations. There’s a case study in Bueno’s book about a woman who miscarried twice, whose husband was grieving deeply. “He bought the pregnancy test. He saw that test emerge — he was drawn into it,” Bueno said. He was already forging a relationship with the baby that he had to mourn, too.

Nearly five years after my loss, I don’t think about the miscarriage much anymore. I was lucky to have a second child, which is what I desperately wanted, and that helped me. But lots of families still feel complicated grief even after having additional children. Bueno lost twin girls, Florence and Matilda, at 22 weeks, and she had three miscarriages as well. She went on to have two boys, and for her, “the nourishment and joy runs alongside the grief.” Bueno told me about an oral history she had read from a woman with nine children. That woman had a miscarriage, too, and though she was in her 80s at the time of the oral history, she still felt the loss acutely despite her sizable brood.

If you know someone who has experienced a loss, Bueno said, “err on the side of compassionate curiosity.” This could mean saying you’re sorry for a loss, and then asking something open-ended, like, “Tell me what it meant to you,” as it allows for the many kinds of emotion someone might feel. Be prepared for any response — a woman may not want to talk about it at all, or she may want to talk about the gory viscera. I recall making extremely dark jokes about what came out of me in the aftermath. Those physical side effects, “that stuff needs to be talked about,” Bueno said. Otherwise we run the risk of women feeling “icky and shameful and abnormal” about what they’ve experienced.

We need to make cultural space for every single kind of reaction to loss — there will always be a gamut of responses. And sharing these stories is a good place to start.

5 Simple (But Essential) Reasons to Stop Watching Porn Today

5 SIMPLE (BUT ESSENTIAL) REASONS TO STOP WATCHING PORN TODAY

Greg Hintz

He sat there, broken and exposed like never before.

“I didn’t think it would end like this. I didn’t think it would go so far.” He whispered the words through tears and gritted teeth.

I had worked with people suffering from pornography addiction very closely for the past three years, but I hadn’t seen this level of loss. A marriage destroyed. A family severed. A high level career in shambles. A man at the brink of giving up on life.

I broke the silence. “What? What wouldn’t go so far?”

“Pornography.” He looked me square in the eyes. “Porn just grabbed a hold of me and wouldn’t let go. It consumed my life.”

This man’s story is like many men’s stories. Porn has a way of sinking its talons deep into our lives and not letting go. Many people don’t think that porn will have a negative effect on their life. They don’t know the full ramifications or the incredibly adverse effects that continued exposure to pornography can have. That is, until it goes too far.

So, whether you are just getting started or find yourself stuck in the quick sand of pornography, let me give you five straightforward but essential reasons to quit today.

1. Better Relationships

Did you know that there is a 300% increase in divorce for homes where one or more people in the relationship regularly look at pornography?¹

In Scripture, Jesus says, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28).

There is a connection with those we ‘lust after’ that will get in the way of our relationship every time. Our eyes and attention are called to be in one direction, but porn has a way of diverting our attention in many different directions.

Giving up porn will remove the massive barrier standing in front of our relationships and focus our attention on restoration.

2.  Free Space in Your Mind

Porn happens to be fantastic at forming new, long-lasting pathways in the brain. Over time, these images or videos become burned into the brain, taking up space. These memories can turn into objectification of the people you see every day, repeating these images in your mind over and over again.

As these images or videos increase, so does the space that is stored up in our minds. There is an acronym often used to describe the effect that these images have on our mind and our daily interactions. It’s FOE. It stand for “fantasy,” “objectification,” and “euphoric recall.”

Porn will increase the amount of FOEs that we face each day.

Quitting porn, however, will free up space in your mind that can be used for good, not objectification.

3. Better Sex

Some of you are wondering why I didn’t start with this one!

Did you know that porn can cause erectile dysfunction in men? That’s right, no more erections! In fact, psychiatry professor Norman Doidge reported in his book The Brain That Changes Itself that removal of internet pornography use reversed impotence and sexual arousal problems in his patients.

I am reminded of the words of Jesus when he said, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and life abundantly” (John 10:10).

Isn’t it just like the devil to entice us to see all the sexually explicit things that we want, and then have the ability to enjoy sexual activity with another stripped away? You deserve to have great sex and that starts with taking the pornography out of your life.

4. Less Stress

Watching porn has a natural way of increasing stress and releasing cortisol (a steroid hormone) into your system. However, think about the stress you feel every time someone is on your computer, looking at your Netflix queue, or asking to borrow your phone. That stress would be completely lifted off by quitting porn. There will no longer be that fear or shame of “being caught.”

I heard a saying the other day that went like this: “The best gift you can give yourself is the gift of a clean conscience.”

How true this is! I have been on both sides of the coin. I have had that fear and stress controlling me, and I’ve also been on the side of a clean conscience. There is no question as to where I’d rather be. I’m grateful for less stress.

5. Living in Integrity

Integrity has been described as “living with the lights on” or “acting the same in front of people as you do when no one is watching.” Some would describe this as living with authenticity—being true to YOU. By quitting porn, many begin to live in truth and integrity.

I have never found someone who said, “Watching porn is helping me become my best self!” In fact, the reaction from everyone I’ve talked to has been quite the opposite. Pornography has caused them to live outside of their values, keeping secrets and lying to those they love the most. When you live in integrity, you are able to be the same person no matter where you find yourself.

One of my favorite conversations can be found in the book Alice in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carroll. There is a scene where Alice is lost. She is trying to figure out where to go, but there are all of these signs pointing in different directions. As she is trying to make the right choice, the Cheshire Cat shows up.

Their conversation goes like this:

Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

The Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

Alice: “I don’t much care where.”

The Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.”

Alice: “… So long as I get somewhere.”

The Cheshire Cat: “Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”

For some reading this article, you’ve walked long enough. This is your moment. Change is sitting right in front of you, but you will have to take that first step. You will have to make the decision of where you “want to get to.” Is it a life free from porn? Is it a place of honesty and integrity? Is it living authentically?

If so, you’re in the right place. So, take that first step today! Decide where you want to get to and begin your journey to a porn-free life!

¹ “Internet Pornography by the Numbers: A Significant Threat to Society.” Webroot. n.d. Web.

To Counter Loneliness, Find Ways to Connect

TO COUNTER LONELINESS, FIND WAYS TO CONNECT

Jane E. Brody

A four-minute film produced for the UnLonely Film Festival and Conference last month featured a young woman who, as a college freshman, felt painfully alone. She desperately missed her familiar haunts and high school buddies who seemed, on Facebook at least, to be having the time of their lives.

It reminded me of a distressing time I had as an 18-year-old college sophomore — feeling friendless, unhappy and desperate to get out of there.

I didn’t know it then, but I was in the age bracket — 18 to 24 — that now has the highest incidence of loneliness, as much as 50 percent higher than occurs among the elderly. For young adults, loneliness and social isolation are major precipitants of suicide, experts say.

Fortunately, I visited the university health clinic where an astute psychologist examined my high school records, including a long list of extracurricular activities, and noted that I had done only schoolwork during my first year in college.

“There’s nothing the matter with you that wouldn’t be fixed by your becoming more integrated into the college community,” she said. She urged me to get involved with something that would connect me to students with similar interests.

I protested that as a biochemistry major with classes six mornings a week and four afternoon labs, I had no time for extracurricular activities. And she countered: “You have to find time. It’s essential to your health and a successful college experience.”

Having no better option, I joined a monthly student-run magazine that fit into my demanding academic schedule. I soon fell in love with interviewing researchers and writing up their work. I also befriended a faculty adviser to the magazine, a grandfatherly professor who encouraged me to expand my horizons and follow my heart.

Two years later as a college senior and the magazine’s editor, I traded courses in physical chemistry and advanced biochemistry for news reporting and magazine writing.

The rest is history. Armed with a master’s degree in science writing and two years as a general assignment reporter, at 24 I was hired by The New York Times as a science writer, a job I have loved for 53 years. In making rewarding social connections in college, I not only conquered loneliness, I found a path to a marvelous career.

“Social connections, in a very real way, are keys to happiness and health,” noted Dr. Jeremy Nobel, founder of the UnLonely Project and faculty member in primary care at Harvard Medical School. In an opinion piece in The Boston Globe written with Michelle Williams, dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, these experts stated that loneliness and social isolation play “an outsized role” in preventable deaths by suicide.

They urged that social relationships be considered a national public health priority “to roll back those heartbreaking, preventable deaths of despair.”

But it’s not just young people who are lonely. “More than a third of adults are chronically lonely, and 65 percent of people are seriously lonely some of the time,” Dr. Nobel said in an interview. Among the groups with especially high rates of loneliness are veterans, 20 of whom take their own lives each day on average. Even half of chief executives experience loneliness (it can be lonely at the top), a state that can adversely affect job performance.

The rate of persistent loneliness is also high among older adults, who, in addition to limitations imposed by chronic illness, may suffer the isolating effects of mobility issues, lack of transportation and untreated hearing loss.

However, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University, told the UnLonely conference that no one is immune to the toxic effects of social isolation. “It’s so distressing, it’s been used as a form of punishment and torture,” Dr. Holt-Lunstad said.

“Loneliness saps vitality, impairs productivity and diminishes enjoyment of life,” Drs. Nobel and Williams wrote. Its effects on health match that of obesity, alcohol abuse and smoking 15 cigarettes a day, increasing the risk of an early death by 30 percent.

The aim of the UnLonely Project, Dr. Nobel said, is to raise awareness of its increasing incidence and harmful effects and reduce the stigma — the feelings of embarrassment — related to it.

“We want people to know that loneliness is not their fault and to encourage them to become engaged in programs that can diminish it,” he said. One program featured in the film festival depicts a group of older women in the Harlem neighborhood in New York who participate in synchronized swimming. One of the women said she didn’t even know how to swim when she joined the group but now wouldn’t miss a session.

In Augusta, Ga., in partnership with AARP, a program of painting together, as well as music and dance, was created for caregivers who often have little opportunity to connect with others and reap the benefits of mutual support and friendship.

Doing something creative and nurturing helps both caregivers and people struggling with serious chronic illness get outside themselves and feel more connected, Dr. Ruth Oratz, medical oncologist at New York University Langone Medical Center, told the conference, convened by the Foundation for Art and Healing.

The foundation’s goal, Dr. Nobel said, is to promote the use of creative arts to bring people together and foster health and healing through activities like writing, music, visual arts, gardening, textile arts like knitting, crocheting and needlework, and even culinary arts.

“Loneliness won’t just make you miserable — it will kill you,” Dr. Nobel said. “Creative arts expression has the power to connect you to yourself and others. How about a monthly potluck supper? It’s so simple, such a great way to be connected as well as eat good food.”

Much of modern life, though seeming to promote connectivity, has had the opposite effect of fostering social isolation and loneliness, experts say. According to the foundation, “Internet and social media engagement exacerbates feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety.”

People rarely relate intimate tales of misery and isolation on Facebook. Rather, social media postings typically feature fun and friendship, and people who lack them are likely to feel left out and bereft. Electronic communications often replace personal, face-to-face interactions and the subtle signals of distress and messages of warmth and caring such interactions can convey.

So consider making a date this week to meet a friend for coffee, dinner, a visit to a museum or simply a walk. Online communities like Meetup.com can be a good source for finding others with common interests. If nothing else, pick up the phone and have a conversation with someone. Chances are, you will both be better off for it.