Original Link ; https://medium.com/@ericsburdon/the-secret-to-battling-loneliness-1811d0b3d258

What the Danish have learned about battling loneliness is the key for all us.

More infectious than most, if not all diseases in the world.

More problematic than what is being covered on the news.

It’s an issue that has serious ramifications should we continue to ignore it. And it’s an issue that we have to deal with within our own heads.

Last year, about a fifth of the British population and half of the American population, are currently experiencing loneliness. And this loneliness doesn’t discriminate.

Amongst men and women, older and younger, people are experiencing varying degrees of loneliness for whatever reason.

From social media addiction affecting Millenials, Gen Z generation, to the elderly being in retirement homes or most of their connections having passed away.

Loneliness and our desire for connection are so high that these days we see it as a symbol of success. In fact, many people measure their success with such a thing.

Thankfully this massive epidemic isn’t going unnoticed.

In the UK there is a campaign called Campaign to End Loneliness focusing on the elderly and providing them resources. Another similar group that’s elderly focused is Connect2Affect.

But out of the multiple programs that are slowly on the rise, one particular program stands out. It’s a program that was designed in Denmark and has been long standing in the country.

Only now, it’s getting more government attention and for good reason.

It works really well.

The program is called Ventilen or “friend to me” translated. Running for the past 20 years, this program focuses on individuals between the ages of 15 and 25. With the assistance of two or three volunteers, the idea is to bring a group together and do activities.

From playing games to going to the movies, the whole idea is to create an atmosphere where everyone is friends with each other. It’s through these experiences that help build human connections and develop human skills that so many of us lack.

But why exactly does it work? And why should other countries build programs that are exactly like Ventilen? Here is why.

Loneliness Is A Mental Issue But Requires Different Medication

In America, many people are quick to turn to pills whenever there is some kind of issue. For example, one in five Americans are taking opioids to treat long-term non-cancer issues. And it’s pretty fair to say that that habit also affects other conditions.

That goes the same for loneliness which can often be confused with depression.

But the truth of the matter is that a lot of these medications don’t quite work for people. Sometimes the pills that we take have no effect at all in alleviating our health issues. And sometimes the issues that we think we have aren’t really the issue that we have.

Take for example depression. While some people do have genuine depression, not all 300 million people globally need to take pills to alleviate depression. Perhaps the underlying cause is that your life sucks.

Or maybe you’re lonely.

That is what some of the participants at Ventilen have discovered about their own depression. Many participants in the program find that their best “medication” is attending these events twice per week.

And this makes absolute sense. Especially when looking at my own life.

I wouldn’t say I suffer from extreme loneliness but the life of a writer is certainly a lonely one. It’s one of the reasons why I try to get out once in a while and in recent months have been working on making connections with other people. It’s also why whenever there is a family event, I very rarely turn it down.

Because as some lonely individuals have recognized, social media can not fully replace what we all deeply need.

It Has A Long Track Record And Understands Happiness

To further solidify the validity of its programs we only need to look at the company, what it’s done, and where it’s located.

To reiterate, Ventilen has been around for about 20 years at this point. It’s a long-standing company that clearly follows a formula that works.

And you can see it work since there are now 21 venues that Ventilen occupies all across Denmark, one of the happiest places on Earth.

But while Denmark is one of the happiest places, a report showed that one in ten Denmark citizens struggle with loneliness. So these programs are put in place to address these issues.

But why this program has come more into the limelight is because of these types of effective programs. They allow people to talk about their issues. Whether it’s on social media, through writing, or merely talking to other people about it.

It can be enough to spark various things. One of the biggest being research into loneliness which has revealed various health issues. For example, in an article posted in Harvard Business Reviewthe research found that loneliness and weak social connections is akin to smoking 15 cigarettes per day.

But while loneliness isn’t linked to any specific disease, loneliness can be the start to a variety of issues. Loneliness is found to place us into fight or flight instincts which in that state increase our heart rate, stress, and can cause other psychological issues. Especially if we are in that state for extended periods or in a constant state.

But while Ventilen may not have known all of those things over these 20 years, they clearly understand that what they are doing is helping.

Yes, the program still has challenges. Some people struggle to show up to those venues. Some will go once and never come back. But Ventilen understands that at least having that venue there where people can do various activities is encouraging and empowering for those who are able to make it.

They understand happiness and what is truly needed to get there.

They also understand one other thing.

Happiness Is A Group Effort, Not An Individual One

While loneliness doesn’t discriminate, happiness is also the same.

It’s why this program takes great pride in other peoples privacy.

No names are needed in order to register and participate in these activities. All that’s needed is your age, gender, and whether you’re in school or employed.

This allows people to avoid the overall stigma of admitting that they are lonely as many people still believe that mental issues equals you’re broken.

But this bit of information helps Ventilen organize groups and activities because they recognize that going at this alone doesn’t work.

Loneliness is a deeply complex problem. The same is true to depression as well. It’s not something that is immediately fixed after a few outings or doses of happiness.

It can be a long and painful process, requiring you to build relationships and make genuine connections. Something that so many of us struggle with because some of us are so accustomed to looking at a screen.

It’s something that takes a group of people to really help and they understand what is going on. And it’s for this specific reason why I feel that this program works wonders and is so effective.

No matter how old you are, loneliness isn’t something that a pill can fix. It requires us to look back into ourselves. And honestly, the best way to be able to do that is to have programs like Ventilen. A program that’s designed to give people a room.

A room to open up. It can truly be the best medicine around.