We all know that diabetes can cause death. And that cigarettes can reduce our life expectancy. But what most of us do not know, is that loneliness can have a similar affect on our health.

On Valentine’s Day last year, the BBC launched the largest ever Loneliness Experiment with 55,000 people from around the world. They found that loneliness is as bad for our health as having a long-term illness such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Loneliness has shown to be as bad for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and to reduce our life expectancy by up to 8 years. The epidemic of loneliness is spreading so fast that it is estimated to affect 1.1 million British people and up to 50% of all Americans.

In the U.S. 1 in 4 people have said that they have no one person to confide in. To make things worse, 75 % of people say that they’re unsatisfied with the friendships that they do have.

Loneliness is not simply that we are alone, rather it is the feeling that you are not connected or loved by the people around you. This is why so many people feel lonely even though their lives are full of people. We may be in relationships, friendships or even be married, yet feel that ache in our hearts.

The root of our disconnection from others is a disconnection from ourselves. When we are not in touch with ourselves, it is very easy to feel alone even in the company of others. We may spend time following others on social media and less time discovering ourselves. We may spend time taking selfies, but less time becoming self-aware. We are prone to superficial relationships with others, simply because we have superficial relationships with ourselves. However, we can overcome loneliness by reconnecting to our true inner self.

The common thing between all of us is the spirit inside. Once we connect with that spirit within us, we are naturally connected to everyone else, in the deepest and most meaningful way. This lets us transform relationships centred around gossip into those focused on giving, from interactions based on lust into ones built on love, and from exchanges based on the externals of our bodies into those based on the internals of our heart.

We may fail to have exchanges of love, because our own hearts are empty. But, when we dig deep and connect to the spirit inside, we are able to access the

foundation of love which lies within, allowing it to flow into every aspect of our lives. Making every exchange we have more fulfilling and feeling fulfillment even when no one else is around.

Mother Teresa has said: “We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread, but there are many more dying for a little love.”