Research has shown that loneliness can lead to emotional and psychiatric disorders, and can even have negative effects on the body. Loneliness on the scale we’re currently seeing is bound to result in higher medical costs across the board, which eventually affects everyone. The divisiveness we’re seeing in society bleeds into my work as a matchmaker. It used to be that people with different ideologies could have happy relationships. Now people treat different ideologies as an automatic dealbreaker. I connect this trend to the loneliness epidemic because people are not spending time face to face to find commonalities in spite of different beliefs or leanings. The more we separate from each other, the lonelier and more divided we become as a society.
As a part of my interview series about the ‘5 Things We Can Each Do Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic’ I had the pleasure to interview Laurie F. Berzack, MSW. Matchmaker, relationship expert and dating coach Laurie Berzack, is the founder and owner of Carolinas Matchmaker in Charlotte, North Carolina and co-founded the international Matchmakers Alliance. In addition to in-person consultations throughout the Carolinas, Laurie offers online dating coaching and one-hour consultations worldwide. Media outlets routinely seek out Laurie’s expertise. She has been featured in international and national outlets including U.S. News & World Report, O, The Oprah Magazine, Bustle, POPSUGAR and Romper, and Charlotte’s FOX, CBS and NBC television affiliates. In 2016 Laurie pioneered the successful Philanthrodating™ series, which combines singles mixers and community service projects. Since its creation, Philanthrodating™ has raised more than $20,000 for Charlotte nonprofits. Laurie earned a master’s degree in Social Work with a concentration in Community Organization from Wurzweiler School of Social Work, a division of Yeshiva University in New York, NY. Prior to Wurzweiler she received a BA in English and Psychology from Emory University in Atlanta, GA. Laurie has been happily married for more than 25 years and has two sons. The happiness she finds in her family life is what she wishes for all of her clients, and it’s what drives her passion for matchmaking and relationship coaching.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Laurie! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us? What was it that led you to your eventual career choice?
I have a natural tendency to introduce people to each other, whether the introduction is about jobs, friendship, or potential partners. As I was getting into my mid-thirties, I saw more and more people around me getting divorced, and I really wanted to help them find love again.
When I introduced my first couple, who fell in love and ended up moving in together, the joy I experienced was so moving to me, it felt like I was falling in love myself. I wanted more of that feeling and now that I’ve been doing this for 13 years, I know that this is my mission.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I could fill a book with all of the stories I’ve collected from more than a decade of helping people find love. In fact, I am writing a book — two of them, actually!
My favorite story is a small moment that will always stay with me. I introduced two people in their 60s who fell in love and stayed together. In fact, it was a trans-continental match! He was visiting from South Africa, I introduced them, and he stayed in touch with her by Skype for about six months. One day, he showed up on her doorstep and proposed! Later that year, I saw the man’s grandson hug the woman I’d introduced to his grandfather, and that’s when it hit me. The work I do is multigenerational and love impacts the entire family. I’ve always taken pride in my work but when I realized how it enriches entire families, it added an extra layer of joy to my work.
Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
We used to share the first name of the person we were introducing a client to in advance of their first meeting. We would also share some of their interests and maybe their alma mater. It turns out that this is enough information for curious people to find and Google their prospective match before they even meet the person! This is problematic because people are tempted to rush to judgment and may not give someone a chance even if our experience and wisdom tells us that this could be a great couple. Our takeaway from this experience was to keep the person’s first name to ourselves. We now only supply their first initial — and no alma mater!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I have an entrepreneurial mind and I’ve always got several things going at once in my mission to help as many people as possible. I’m currently writing two books. One book is going to help people learn to love themselves, date successfully, and be their own matchmaker. The other book is going to be a fun behind-the-scenes look of at life as a matchmaker. I’m also planning workshops and developing programs for larger audiences so I can make a bigger impact on more people. Self love, beating the loneliness epidemic, and online dating are only some of the topics that I will cover in depth!
Can you share with our readers a bit why you are an authority about the topic of the Loneliness Epidemic?
As a matchmaker and dating coach for 13 years, I’ve worked with thousands of people who are looking for a companion. When these people come to see me they are almost always in a state of loneliness. They want to change something in their lives but they’re not sure how to start, or they’ve given up hope that change is even possible. I’ve seen firsthand how loneliness impacts people’s lives on every level, from work and health to friendships and love. I have helped people truly get in touch with themselves on a soul level, through meditation, journaling, daily affirmations, manifesting, and many different forms of self-love practices to help them get on track with loving themselves to combat the loneliness epidemic.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this story in Forbes, loneliness is becoming an increasing health threat not just in the US , but across the world. Can you articulate for our readers 3 reasons why being lonely and isolated can harm one’s health?
What I see most often in my clients is a negative thought pattern that turns into rumination and keeps them stuck in a cycle of loneliness. Constant worrying or negative cycles of thought can shut you down and alter your psyche. This rumination harms relationships, because it becomes difficult to be around someone who is constantly negative. Most importantly, it harms people’s relationships with themselves. If your relationship with yourself is unhealthy, you’re unable to have healthy relationships with others.
A second consequence of loneliness is fatigue. Some of my clients feel beaten down by isolation. It has become impossible to imagine a life that’s different than the life they’re experiencing right now. They feel stuck and can’t figure out how to free themselves from their loneliness. Simply put, they’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.
I’ve also noticed that anxiety accompanies loneliness in many cases. After long periods of isolation, people are scared to take the first step toward change. This fear can become a generalized sense of anxiety, especially in the modern world where we’re constantly bombarded with distractions and stimulation.
On a broader societal level, in which way is loneliness harming our communities and society?
Research has shown that loneliness can lead to emotional and psychiatric disorders, and can even have negative effects on the body. Loneliness on the scale we’re currently seeing is bound to result in higher medical costs across the board, which eventually affects everyone.
The divisiveness we’re seeing in society bleeds into my work as a matchmaker. It used to be that people with different ideologies could have happy relationships. Now people treat different ideologies as an automatic dealbreaker. I connect this trend to the loneliness epidemic because people are not spending time face to face to find commonalities in spite of different beliefs or leanings. The more we separate from each other, the lonelier and more divided we become as a society.
The irony of having a loneliness epidemic is glaring. We are living in a time where more people are connected to each other than ever before in history. Our technology has the power to connect billions of people in one network, in a way that was never possible. Yet despite this, so many people are lonely. Why is this? Can you share 3 of the main reasons why we are facing a loneliness epidemic today? Please give a story or an example for each.
The first thing that comes to my mind from a matchmaking perspective is social media. People think that social media equals connection, but it’s a fake connection. People are not connecting authentically and organically and a lot of it is due to social media. The other issue with social media is that it compounds loneliness. People are scrolling through curated images of seemingly perfect lives and comparing them to their own imperfect lives. For a lonely person, every social media platform feels like another place where people are having fun without you.
Technology in general is another culprit in the loneliness epidemic. These days there are so many ways for people to get in touch with you. If no one is contacting you, it feels worse than ever. We’re not paying attention to what’s going on around us, and we’re missing opportunities to meet people in real life as a result. Even things that we think make our lives easier are actually making us more lonely.
Take rideshare apps, for example. People no longer have those sweet moments in the car at the end of the date — moments that used to be perfect for a first kiss. Now people go home in their own separate rideshare cars. People don’t drink responsibly because they know they can call a ride on their app, so they’re more likely to get sloppy and make a bad impression.
Another example of technology compounding loneliness is streaming services. At the end of a long day, it feels easier to lay on the couch and binge watch TV than to go out into the world and mingle or try something new. But in the long run, all this bingeing is keeping us from engaging with people. It’s making us sick with loneliness.
The third main reason we’re facing a loneliness epidemic is our abundance of options. In the matchmaking world I see people hesitating to settle down with a partner because they want to see what’s behind doors number two, three, and four before they commit. The sheer number of online dating apps is causing “paralysis by analysis” — people are just drowning in choices and feel unable to choose a partner.
Ok. it is not enough to talk about problems without offering possible solutions. In your experience, what are the 5 things each of us can do to help solve the Loneliness Epidemic. Please give a story or an example for each.
Over the years I have developed five practical steps to help people love themselves. If you truly love yourself, you become immune to loneliness. These are all things I do myself and I recommend them to my clients as well.
The first step is to start a daily meditation practice. Start with five minutes and gradually increase to 20 minutes. Use an app to help keep track of your streaks and increase your meditation stamina. My favorite meditation app is Insight Timer. Meditation allows you to connect with yourself and your soul. It leads to a total mindset makeover if you stick with it. With practice, you will be able to identify when a negative thought comes to you, and you will be able to consciously let go of the thought. Negative thoughts turn into negative self-talk, which turns into rumination. Once people start ruminating, they begin to feel stuck in their circumstances and unable to change the things that make them unhappy. Meditation prevents this from happening by giving people the ability to gain control over their negative thoughts.
The second step in combatting loneliness is to get outside and get grounded — literally — in nature. Walk in the sunshine, even if you only have ten minutes a day. Get fresh air and realize you’re part of something bigger than yourself. Sometimes when we’re lonely, the only connection we have is with our negative self-talk. Getting outside is a simple way to get out of your head and connect with the world around you.
Step three is called mirror work. It is simply saying kind things to yourself in the mirror. You’ll feel silly at first, but stick with it and your subconscious will actually believe what you’re saying. When you subconsciously believe that you are worthy of love, everything you do will reinforce that belief. For example, repeat, “I am beautiful” many times. What you’re really saying is, “My soul is beautiful.”
The fourth step is to write down your thoughts and feelings consistently. Get your thoughts out of your head and onto the page. I suggest making a daily list of ten things you’re grateful for. I do this every day, and it keeps me focused on the positive things in life. Gratitude will make you a happier, healthier person, and there is no room for loneliness when you’re in a state of gratitude.
My last recommendation for solving the loneliness epidemic is what I call a God Box, but you can call it a Spirit Box, a Universe Box, or any name that works for you, since we all have different beliefs and traditions that comfort us. When you’re feeling stressed or upset about something outside of your control, write it down and put it in the box. When you close the box, consciously release the thought that’s bothering you. This is an act of surrendering your worries to a higher power. Even if you’re not near the box, if a negative or worrying thought comes into your mind during the day, consciously release it as you imagine yourself closing the box.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would teach people to love themselves and encourage everyone to get together in person rather than online. In my home city of Charlotte, I host monthly meet ups for single people in their 40s and 50s, as well as regular events for young professionals that I trademarked Philanthrodating™ (singles events that raise money and awareness for nonprofits). I believe it’s important to provide opportunities for people to meet in an authentic way. Simply put, we need more gatherings.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
I thought long and hard about this answer, and while it would be lovely to meet someone that I wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to meet, my answer was simple. Who do I want to spend time with? It would be my Dad. We almost lost him last year, and more and more I realize how fragile life is. My dad is one of my favorite people and he inspired me to be the person I am today. He has always been supportive and truthful. He loves me unconditionally, and he has a very calming presence. He is always excited about my work and listens to what I have to say. He taught me that no matter what you’re going through, you can still wake up in the morning and be grateful for a new day!
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Thank you so much for these insights. This was so inspiring, and so important!