We can all fight against loneliness by engaging in random acts of kindness.

Gail Honeyman, author of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

July 11 Is National Cheer Up the Lonely Day

In her breakout novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman explores the socially-taboo topic of loneliness. She notes that in the modern, digitally-interconnected world, many of us unconsciously view loneliness as embarrassing or shameful. After all—with as many devices and social media platforms as we have, if we’re lonely, it must be our fault, right? As it turns out, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, a 2018 study showed up to 46% of Americans report feeling lonely, with a whopping 1 in 5 saying they rarely—if ever! —feel close to others. With those statistics in mind, here’s how you, as a beauty or fitness professional, can use your skills to make a difference. 

Only the Lonely?

Did you know that you’re a vital part of solving the American loneliness problem? The same study showed that people who regularly interact with others score lower on the loneliness index. That means you! In the beauty and fitness industries, your entire work life revolves around interacting with other people. The average stylist sees anywhere from 6-20 people every day. Personal trainers regularly see an average of 15-25 clients every week. That’s great news for you—your loneliness scores are probably on the lower side! Accordingly, that means you’re in the ideal profession to make a difference in a lonely person’s life.

You’re In an Intimate Profession

Everyone’s heard the advice to “reach out” when they’re feeling lonely. But what if reaching in is a better solution? The beauty and fitness industries are intimate professions. Not only do you spend a dedicated amount of time talking to your clients, but you’re also physically touching their bodies. Knowing how many Americans experience loneliness, it’s likely that for some of your clientele, you may be one of their few social interactions. You may have even noticed the small ways loneliness crops up on the job. The secrets you’ve heard behind the chair, the emotional reactions to massage or physical exertion, or the clients who linger after appointments. You may not know it, but chances are, you’re an anchor in someone’s life. Reaching in to lonely people who may be unable to reach out can therefore be one of the most rewarding parts of your job.

How to Reach In

There are many reasons people feel lonely: loss, grief, financial problems, health issues, age, etc. Whatever the root, one thing is universally true: loneliness and isolation are overwhelming, and take a physical toll on the body. July 11 is the day we collectively recognize how little acts of kindness make a big impact. But remember, every day you wake up with a fresh chance to “reach in” for someone who’s lonely. Here are some easy ways to use your profession (or outgoing personality!) to brighten someone’s world.

  • Designate a safe space. Examples: Safe Zone, Cut It Out- The Beauty Community Against Domestic Violence, Strands For Trans, or other signage to indicate that if someone is feeling isolated, your workspace is a place where they can feel heard.

  • Listen more than you speak.

  • Put your skills to use at a senior center, hospital, veteran’s association, or shelter. Examples: Washing hair, nail care, hand or foot massages, simple haircuts, a stretching workshop. Or try something unrelated to your profession, like reading to someone.

  • Get involved with Look Good Feel Better, who help cancer patients feel empowered during treatment.

  • Volunteer with the American Heart Association. This is a great way to use your fitness knowledge to benefit others!

  • Send your clients a note, just to let them know you appreciate them.

  • Visit your neighbors (at home or work!) and have a conversation.

  • Write a letter to a homesick soldier through the Any Soldier project.  

  • Visit the children’s ward of your local hospital or contact Project Sunshine to engage in some meaningful playtime!  

  • Treat the person behind you in line to a coffee.

  • Send a text to someone you haven’t talked to in a while.

  • Strike up a casual conversation with a stranger.

  • Let kindness guide you.

How do you cheer up those who are lonely? We’d love to hear your best suggestions for reaching in!

Header Image: @MIRAHNEVA via Twenty20

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