Artwork for podcast The Art of We
57. Facing Loneliness This Time Of Year
Episode 5723rd November 2023 • The Art of We • Krista Van Derveer and Dr. Will Van Derveer
00:00:00 00:28:24

Share Episode


In episode 57 of the "Art of We" podcast, hosts Krista and Dr. Will Van Derveer discuss the epidemic of loneliness and isolation, particularly during the darker and colder days of the year. They emphasize the importance of normalizing these feelings and acknowledge that even individuals in strong partnerships or with supportive communities often experience a version of loneliness. 

Dr. Will speculates on the biological and societal factors contributing to seasonal loneliness. Krista shares statistics from the US Surgeon General of 2023, highlighting the significant health risks associated with social isolation.

The hosts explore various strategies to cope with loneliness, including sharing their common go-tos. Dr. Will discusses the benefits of bright light therapy for seasonal affective disorder and the potential role of vitamin D supplementation in addressing depression. They conclude by encouraging listeners to also share their experiences and coping strategies around loneliness.

Main Topics Covered:

  • Loneliness and isolation are discussed as an epidemic, especially during the darker days of the year.
  • Biological and societal factors contribute to seasonal loneliness.
  • Statistics from the US Surgeon General highlight the health risks associated with social isolation.
  • Normalizing everyone feels flavors of this from time to time and ways to help soothe the 
  • Bright light therapy and vitamin D supplementation are suggested as potential interventions for seasonal affective disorder.
  • Reflecting on negative historical experiences during this time of year that can color the present day experience

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform. 

Resources Mentioned: 

Get in Touch: 

Rate, Review & Follow on Apple Podcasts: 

If you want to show your support for this show, please consider rating and reviewing The Art of We on Apple Podcasts. To do that, open the Apple Podcasts app and search for The Art of We. Scroll to the bottom of the package and rate with 5 stars. Let us know your favorite part of the show by clicking “Write a Review.” While you’re at it, follow the show so you can get the latest episode delivered to your phone weekly.


Dr. Will Van Derveer 0:00

One of the things I've learned over the years and it's definitely proven true here in our relationship is that holding a feeling of loneliness or aloneness, inside of myself without sharing, it is a recipe for something worse coming. And it's interesting how, without the agenda to change it, or try to fix it, or declare war against it, or what any of these approaches just being with the experience tends to soften and start to metabolize the experience and help us move.

Krista Van Derveer 0:36

Welcome to the Art of we, this is Podcast, episode number 57. And today, we are going to touch on something that some people are calling an epidemic. Right now we've talked about the epidemic of mental health. This is related to it. This is the epidemic of loneliness and isolation. And our intent with this episode is that we really just want to normalize feelings of loneliness and isolation, especially during the darkest days of the year, at least where we live in the United States. I know that happens in other countries as well, at this time of year, not all of them. And the tendency for even if we're in the most amazing partnership, or we have extraordinary family and community that there can be sometimes for some people, a feeling of loneliness during this time of year. And just really naming that likely, if it's not happening to you, it probably is happening to people around you, who you care about and who you love. And so we just wanted to touch on that on this episode.

Dr. Will Van Derveer 1:42

I wonder how much of the loneliness we feel at this time of year happens, sort of almost like a biological experience of shorter days. And for us colder weather and kind of being more in a hibernation mode, and how much of it is the relational elements or the expectations of Hallmark card cultural, you know, Norman Rockwell family's holiday seasons?

Krista Van Derveer 2:11

by the US, Surgeon General of:

Dr. Will Van Derveer 3:34

was a normal before March of:

Krista Van Derveer 4:13

I mean, we could be smoking and being super happy instead of not smoking.

Dr. Will Van Derveer 4:20

It's true. I mean, we have often thought about that, you know, in cultures where there may be more social connectivity, but it could happen in a bar or you know, where you're drinking and smoking and, you know, this kind of prim and proper sort of Orthorexic kind of approach to trying to get perfect with your diet and your exercise and you're this and you're that and do everything perfect.

Krista Van Derveer 4:43

Yeah, that would be Orthorexic.

Dr. Will Van Derveer 4:48

Orthorexia has obsessive perfectionism around diet. Okay, there's orthosomnia which is like trying to get your sleep perfect, maybe wearing an aura ring like I am and obsessing about the numbers on it. I don't know what ortho relationship via would be. But that's a new word for us to consider here, stressing out about a relationship not being perfect.

Krista Van Derveer 5:08

Right? Well, I think that's, that's actually a really good entryway into talking about when there is a feeling of loneliness, or isolation inside of a relationship. Historically, I can go to oh, there's something wrong. And I still do sometimes, like, if I'm feeling less connected to you, sometimes I feel like that is wrong, I shouldn't feel less connected to you, versus what we're attempting to communicate on this podcast episode, which is a certain amount of feeling of disconnection or loneliness, or isolation, even inside of a relationship is normal.

Dr. Will Van Derveer 5:41

How do you know or what tells you when the amount of loneliness or isolation you're feeling in our relationship is a normal amount, or acceptable amount for you.

Krista Van Derveer 5:54

I would say, if I were noticing some red flags about our way of relating or way of being together on a regular basis, that aren't being attended to, then I might have concern about if I'm feeling pulled back. Or if I'm feeling a little bit lonely or alone. I think a lot of that is just my own psychology versus there's actually something wrong going on with a relationship. And obviously, you know, I'm letting you know that I'm feeling lonely like these, these past couple of weeks, I've been feeling pretty flat, which tends to orient me towards feeling a sense of isolation, even though I have your contact, I have your presence, I have a lot of resources to there's just something in the field. For me that's happening, that I don't think there's anything wrong about our relationship at all. I just feel like there's potentially shorter days, it's getting darker. I haven't historically been affected by seasonal affective disorder, the sad. But it almost feels like a flavor of that this year. And there's so much going on in our lives that there's so much to celebrate, and so much to be happy about. And at the same time, there's this other thing that's happening, and it feels lonely in my system. But just because I don't have a sense of what to do with it. It's just kind of here, no matter how much connection or contact you and I have, it just seems to remain, which just says to me that I'm going through some sort of days or process.

Dr. Will Van Derveer 7:27

Well, there's a lot going on in the world right now, too. And I think that that's, you know, conflicts in the Middle East. The war in Ukraine. We have an election ramping up. We've got Donald Trump under indictment and trials and trying to get his trials televised for publicity. I mean, there's so much going on right now. Economic Uncertainty. There's a lot. See

Krista Van Derveer 7:51

CU Football! We live in Boulder, Colorado. We've been on the primetime watching the primetime, like just that whole experience unfold, which is a whole other thing, too.

Dr. Will Van Derveer 8:04

Yeah. Well, that's a good example. Because it's sort of like this. For those of you who are not following that saga with University of Colorado football, there was a tremendous amount of excitement and hype. And there were even a few exciting winds at the beginning of the season. And then it's just been sort of one step down after another into the trench of despair, and hopelessness. And it's kind of like that, you know, like that. I think that really kind of encapsulates the state of affairs in the world right now. Like, it's just like, there's a helpless, helpless feeling. I mean, we're, we're working on a project for therapists in Ukraine to help them learn about psychedelic therapy, which is one step in the direction toward trying to do something about what the things are, that we know about what's going on. And there's so many different things to work on, you know, whether it's poverty, or, you know, war, or trauma or education or hunger, or, like, yeah, your work with the YWCA and racism and women's empowerment and reproductive rights. And it's just like it goes on and on. And so I'm personally feeling a little bit of the, the weight of things going in, sort of feel like teetering a little bit in the world right now. feels uncertain.

Krista Van Derveer 9:30

I'm so glad that you brought that up, there is a sense of hopelessness and I think that feeds into my feeling of flatness that then has me feel a little bit more isolated. So what we want to do here is normalize it for anybody else who's feeling these kinds of feelings. And when we come back with a break, we can share little ways that we work with this and the face of everything that's going on in the face of hopelessness in the face of potential loneliness that we use to help us get through those times. Sit, we'll be right back. Okay, welcome back, we want to say thank you to all of you who have been following us through this year. And listening to our podcast episodes, we are just so grateful, first of all, for those of you who take the time and energy to learn about relationship and to trust us as some of your people to go to, to learn how we're doing relationship and what we stand for, and attempting to move this world forward into a more we perspective than an AI perspective. And today's topic is really about when I can get lost, or we can get lost, collectively in an I perspective, because it can feel really lonely and isolating and hopeless, like we've been talking about. So we thought we would share some things that we do, or how we orient at times when we are going through some of these periods. And Will you and I were in the bath the other night, talking a little bit about what helps me through these periods. And I will say that taking that hot bath with you is such a sweet moment, like every time I get in the bath with you, it just melts. And for me, usually it's these little things of really being fully present with the moment that really helped me get through some of the flatness or loneliness. Skin time with you always helps. For those of you who haven't heard us talk about skin time, it's really the commitment to laying down with each other, putting our skin on each other and just literally like being with each other and being with what's here and what's present. And there's something that's so biologically soothing, to feel another person's skin, on our skin.

Dr. Will Van Derveer:

I think one of the things I've learned over the years, and it's definitely proven true here in our relationship, is that holding a feeling of loneliness or aloneness, inside of myself without sharing, it is a recipe for something worse coming. And it's interesting how, without the agenda to change it or try to fix it or declare war against it, or one, any of these approaches, just being with the experience tends to soften and start to metabolize the experience and help it move from the perspective of emotional experiences meant to be fluid, and dynamic. And when it gets stuck, you know, sometimes just contact with someone you can trust and sharing your experience is quite magical, the effect that that can have. And that doesn't cost anything, it as far as money, but it does require some courage and some vulnerability. And it requires investing in a relationship. So you have a person like that in your life, which you know, doesn't come for free in terms of energy and effort.

Krista Van Derveer:

Right. And setting the context for me is really helpful. Like you were saying, like I don't want this to be fixed or perceived that there's something wrong here. I just want it to be held and heard and seen and known. And I'm the same as you. When I can express that in a way that is held in a sacred container with somebody, it really does start to move. And I want to go back to the skin time conversation, because I also recognize that there's a lot of people who don't have a primary person to have skin time with. And this can be a particularly lonely time of year when there's a bunch of holidays, at least here in the US. And they feel more isolated because they're not sharing those holidays with somebody. And so for those of you who are listening, who don't have a primary partner to spend time with, I can say that my second best option to that is to find a furry friend. Yeah, I know. And like Coco or Biggie lay on me on my chest. And this is actually something that they train. What are they called emotionally supportive pets?

Dr. Will Van Derveer:

ESPs emotional support animals.

Krista Van Derveer:

Yes, they train those animals to put their body weight on our body weight because it's actually super regulating and for me it does something very magical as well.

Dr. Will Van Derveer:

What if it's a mastiff or a Great Dane even better?

Krista Van Derveer:

They'd have to be pretty well trained. But even contact with them. You know in little moments just like eye gazing with the dogs is super sweet for me. Making contact with friends making a special treat that I normally wouldn't make in the kitchen. Like these protein brownies that turned out horrible but still there was something about like, having something that was supposed to be used super yummy can help make it through these moments.

Dr. Will Van Derveer:

I thought they were pretty great. And I think you should put the recipe in the show notes. Yeah, and if you don't have a furry friend at home, you know, there's, there's probably an animal shelter in your neighborhood that you could check out. And those animals really need contact. And our daughter, Sophie, is such a generous soul. Who loves going to the shelter, and being with the animals, and volunteering there. So I've learned a lot from her about giving back, you know, to these sweet creatures who give so abundantly to us.

Krista Van Derveer:

Yeah, she's been really a good teacher there. And speaking of giving, I think that for me, when I'm focused on giving, in these flat moments, or moments of being alone, really giving something to somebody else, or an organization, it really helps me to, like, focusing on other

Dr. Will Van Derveer:

Yeah, and I'm glad you said that. It's kind of like an aikido move of like, you know, feeling some kind of need, right for contact. And then rather than approaching it from a point of view of, I need to get something from somebody, you know, going out and giving, can actually fill the need in an interesting reversal. And that kind of feeds into another element, which is trying to, you know, if there is an element of hopelessness and helplessness that we've touched on earlier in this show, then finding a way to do something, even anything minimally small to crack through the ice of that helplessness can really start to restore a feeling of, of life and energy in the system. Could be something small, like sending a text to somebody who did something nice for you. And just saying, Thank you, you know, out of the blue with no, anything, it's just so simple.

Krista Van Derveer:

Moving my body to can really help crack that fog, or that kind of feeling of stuckness it's a great one getting out for a walk. Yeah, I mean, these are like simple things. But I think it's back to the basics, always, in this kind of situation.

Dr. Will Van Derveer:

Getting some sun on your face, even if it's too cold to have short sleeves on, you know, being kind and engaging and curious with the cashier at the store. Yeah, simple, simple things that can really make a big difference.

Krista Van Derveer:

Is there anything that you would want to share from a psychiatry perspective, or a psychological perspective when you used to see patients, and they would come in with something like this, or an actual diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder? What would you generally prescribe or suggest that they do? Back in those days?

Dr. Will Van Derveer:

Yeah, well, I would say that there were seasons in my life when I was younger, in my 20s, where I had experiences in the fall that felt to me like seasonal affective depression, or seasonal affective disorder. And I wasn't really that interested in medication, or ever taking antidepressant so I never did that. But I did take a kind of a scientific approach to like, what's been out there, you know, what, what's been studied for seasonal depression. And one of the things I found was a bright light treatment; Light Therapy. And it's pretty cool, there's actually really solid research to support this kind of treatment. And it's not just any kind of light, you don't want to just, you know, get a bunch of, I don't know, led LEDs or, you know, those wonderful $50 halogen corner lamps that you get when you're in college or something. But anyway, it has to be a certain brightness. And there are medical grade lamps that you can buy. And there's a certain number of minutes every morning that you need to use it for, which I won't go into the details here on this show. But the point is that bright light treatment is often effective within just a few days of starting to use it for this kind of dark time of the year problem. And it has fewer side effects than medication. So I'm a big fan.

Krista Van Derveer:

If people were interested in that, would you suggest they just Google bright light therapy and see what comes up and to find products that way? Or what's the best avenue to find them?

Dr. Will Van Derveer:

The company that I used to recommend and I think they're still in business is called Northern Lights technologies. It's a Canadian company. And they have two or three different products that are fairly affordable. And that come with the required amount of brightness which is 10,000 the unit of brightness. So if they're still around, that would be a good one to look for.

Krista Van Derveer:

What about any kind of supplements without us being, you know, responsible for your listeners health and like, we're not getting medical advice here. But I'm curious if there's anything that you might recommend. From that perspective?

Dr. Will Van Derveer:

Well, one thing that I will say about that is, it's common in the northern hemisphere, to run low on your vitamin D level. And this has to do again, with light, and getting outside and having vitamin D produced in your skin from light exposure, which, of course, you have to be careful about when and how and how much and all that because of skin cancer, but low vitamin D levels are closely associated with depression. So it's difficult for any treatment for depression to work well if your vitamin D levels too low. So getting that checked is a simple blood test. And vitamin D supplementation is relatively inexpensive, you know, like 10 bucks for a bottle for a month type of thing. So that's another important foundational tip, I would say, that has a seasonal you know, quality to it.

Krista Van Derveer:

Yeah. And it's interesting that you've seen direct correlation around it, actually needing to have that supplement in order to have the depression lift.

Dr. Will Van Derveer:

Yeah, one of the main causes of failure to respond to attempts to deal with depression is low vitamin D.

Krista Van Derveer:

Good to know. Well, I just want to say to all of you who are listening, like we're all in this together, I don't think any of us are immune to the different and difficult emotions that we can experience at different times of the year that have some sort of flavor of isolation, loneliness, depression. Like, if we're being really honest with ourselves, we're all fully human. And none of us can escape these challenging times. And we're, you know, we're not immune to it either. So, we would love to hear anything that you want to share with us about your journey around loneliness, or seasonal affective disorder. If you want to reach out to us, let us know that you can reach us at Krista van Feel free to email us we'd love to hear your experience and other tips that you might have about how you make it through these challenging times.

Dr. Will Van Derveer:

I have one more thing to add. Before you go, you know, the other thing to bear in mind this time of year is that we all have memories that might not be conscious memories, they might be conscious, but they're more likely not to be conscious. And when they're not conscious, they get experienced as sensations in your body around this time of year, that are associated with holidays and family. So most people, and I mean, most people, like the vast majority of people have what you could call implicit memories of disappointing experiences around this time of year, feeling misunderstood, watching your parents argue at Thanksgiving, you know, the weirdo uncle looking at you weird over the turkey or whatever, you know, whatever the thing is. So having these subtle kind of cues in our body show up this time of year is absolutely totally normal. So I just want to mention that because some people, you know, might not be aware of that that is a very common phenomenon. Every once in a while I meet a person who has warm and fuzzy feelings about their family from holidays. But it's actually pretty, pretty uncommon in my experience. So you know, these are, to me these somatic experiences are invitations to create new experiences that like old cassette tape that like right over the old recording in your body.

Krista Van Derveer:

I love that invitation. I feel like I could even get in there more with you about our experience and what we want to create. And what's happening. There might be some deeper layers over here that we discover. So thank you for that. You know, I just got a moment of joy, thinking about making a healthy ish pumpkin pie is a way to rewrite whatever's going on in my system, right? Yeah.

Dr. Will Van Derveer:

Maybe we'll put on the Kiffness. While we do that together.

Krista Van Derveer:

You have to say now briefly what Kiffness is now that you brought that up.

Dr. Will Van Derveer:

Speaking of loneliness, and animals, animal friends, I kind of fell in love with the Kipnis a few months ago. And I'll share the punchline first and then kind of backfill that Krista found out that the Kipnis was on his first and so far only tour of the world stopping through Denver on our very own anniversary of our first date, so we got to see the Kevin In Denver thanks to Krista it was so much fun. So the kyphosis is in a YouTube sensation who the South African person who, inside of the pandemic was watching animal videos in YouTube, too, you know, deal with his loneliness. And he's a really pretty talented music producer and musician, multiple instruments and he started playing accompaniments to funny cat and dog situations

Krista Van Derveer:

like noises like meowing and barking

Dr. Will Van Derveer:

definitely worth a look in YouTube. If you need a quick laugh.

Krista Van Derveer:

Yeah, we basically in some form, bring up Kiffness like recently, just because these does that the songs are actually kind of addictive. Yeah, so go check it out. We'll put a link in the show notes too. Yeah. Okay, so maybe we go check out some Kiffness and then make some pumpkin pie. Sounds good. Okay. Thanks for joining us, everybody.

Dr. Will Van Derveer:

See you next time.


More Episodes
57. 57. Facing Loneliness This Time Of Year
56. 56. WeOS: Optimizing Relationships At Work
55. 55. Will’s “Me to We” Transition As A Business Leader
54. 54. Why You Need Relationship Agreements At Home + At Work
53. 53. Choosing The Right Business Partner
52. 52. Why You Want A "Secure Functioning" Business Partnership
51. 51. Secure Attachment vs Secure Functioning In Partnerships
50. 50. When Partners Have Different Approaches To Aging
49. 49. Staying Connected While Apart
48. 48. Harnessing The Gifts Of Loss + Death
47. 47. When One Partner Has Low Grade Depression
46. 46. This Simple Shift Expands Our Access To Pleasure
45. 45. Sexologial Bodywork + Somatic Sex Education (with Alyssa Morin)
44. 44. When To Seek Couple's Therapy
43. 43. How & Why We Take Solo Time
42. 42. When One Partner Has An Exit Route
41. 41. When To Have Difficult Conversations With Your Family Of Origin
40. 40. How To Start A Conversation About Negative Impact
39. 39. A Curiosity Practice That Transforms Partners
38. 38. Money Honey! Finances, Prenups, Decision Making
37. 37. The Dark Side of An Optimization Mindset
36. 36. Collaborating With Your Partner? 3 Lessons For Success
35. 35. Attachment Styles: A Path To Wholeness In Relationship - Part 2 (Wave)
34. 34. Attachment Styles: A Path To Wholeness In Relationship - Part 1 (Island)
33. 33. The One Question All Couples Must Ask
32. 32. Celebrating Birthdays: 3 Lessons For Success
31. 31. Pornography's Impact On Relationship
30. 30. How Meditation Deepens Our "We"
29. 29. Too Many Needs, Too Little Time?
28. 28. Gamble Everything For The Love You Want
27. 27. Live + Lead From Desire (Marriage Vow)
26. 26. What Makes A "Power Couple"
25. 25. Should I Stay Or Should I Go? Navigating This Hard Question
24. 24. Tips For Dealing With A Defensive Partner
23. 23. Do Your Perfectionistic Tendencies Impact Your Partnership?
22. 22. Tech Addiction: When Your Partner Can't Put It Down
21. 21. 5 Signs Your Relationship Is In Trouble
20. 20. Navigating (Cupid-Killing) Complaining
19. 19. How We Practice Equality In Our Partnership
18. 18. Psychedelic Therapy + Couples
17. 17. #1 Reason Couples Have Conflict
16. 16. "How To Build A Sex Room" Netflix Series Review
15. 15. How We Protect Each Other (Even From Ourselves)
14. 14. Handling External Distractions + Shiny Objects
13. 13. The Power of Assuming Positive Intent (When Negatively Impacted)
12. 12. How We Align When We Don't Agree
11. 11. Stopping Repetitive Patterns From Childhood
10. 10. Having Faith + Trusting Desire
9. 9. Creating Meaningful Visions Together
8. 8. Top-Shelf Listening (+ Our Edgy Example)
7. 7. "Skin Time" + Our Routines For Connection
6. 6. A Unique Definition of "We"
5. 5. Being For Each Other's Success
4. 4. Anxiety, Attachment Styles + BHAGs
3. 3. When It's Hard to See Possibility
2. 2. Our Agreement About Conflict
1. 1. This ONE Question Turned Our Partnership Into a Catalyst for Change
trailer Introducing The Art of We