Book Club | Together
Vivek Murthy, is an American doctor, who served as the 19th surgeon general of the United States throughout President Obama’s time in office, and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, he co-chaired Joe Biden’s Advisory Board. While he was serving, he went on a national “listening tour” around America hearing on-the-ground reports on the nation’s health qualms. During his tour, his most surprising and profound encounter was that of the problem of loneliness and its effects not only on mental wellbeing, but physically too. Among the thousands of people bearing the weight of loneliness, Murthy found that those who struggled with it had a damagingly high risk of heart disease, dementia, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances and in extreme circumstances, even premature deaths. (NPR)
In his book, Murthy dives deep into the innate power that humans are social creatures, and that this simple and obvious truth can transform the effects that are haunting those who are lonely. He grapples with the shame that is associated with loneliness, and the self-deprecating thoughts that surround lonely people, like “I am unlovable,” and “If I disappeared tomorrow, no one would know I was gone.”
“It’s not about how many people you have around you; it’s about how you feel about the connections that you have in your life. Loneliness results when the connections we need are greater than the connections we have.”
This book is deeply significant in today’s world, as so many people are facing the epidemic of loneliness alongside the isolating crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. Murthy’s hope for this book is to reignite the spark of power that human interaction has over loneliness. He hopes that social revival in a time of social isolation will give people the opportunity to reach out to those they love, those they haven’t seen in a while, and those who need them. And that nations and individuals may not only emerge through this pandemic stronger and more resilient, but with deep connections to community, neighbour and friends to eliminate loneliness from those closest to us.
Below, in the NPR outline, he outlines four key strategies that pull parts of the book together to help find immediate relevance and application, but also in the hope that it will heal parts of people’s worlds and community connections:
- Spend time each day with those you love. Devote at least 15 minutes each day to connecting with those you most care about.
- Focus on each other. Forget about multitasking and give the other person the gift of your full attention, making eye contact, if possible, and genuinely listening.
- Embrace solitude. The first step toward building stronger connections with others is to build a stronger connection with oneself. Meditation, prayer, art, music, and time spent outdoors can all be sources of solitary comfort and joy.
- Help and be helped. Service is a form of human connection that reminds us of our value and purpose in life. Checking on a neighbour, seeking advice, even just offering a smile to a stranger six feet away, all can make us stronger.
- In ‘Together,’ former Surgeon General writes about the importance of human connection, Rachel Martin, National Public Radio
- “Together” Review: All the Lonely People, Matthew Rees, The Wall Street Journal
- Loneliness a hidden and serious health scourge, Vivek Murthy argues in a timely book, Matt McCarthy, USA Today
- “How Loneliness Hurts Us and What to Do About It.” – Jill Suttie, The Greater Good magazine
- Vivek Murthy, “Together” – Politics and Prose Zoom Event (1hour)