Ironic isn’t it? In a world of “connection” through technology and social media, we are also experiencing what some researchers are calling the “loneliness epidemic.” Recent studies claim this epidemic is deadlier than major health risks such as obesity and smoking. Obviously, people need people. People need connection. Loneliness causes stress on the body. We all have moments of loneliness, but long-term stress on the heart is bound to harm us.
The Danger of Being Lonely
- Physical: Increases aches, pains, headaches, illness or worsening of medical conditions
- Mental Health: Increases risk of depression, anxiety, paranoia, suicide, alcoholism, or panic attacks
- Energy Levels: Lowers energy levels, increased tiredness or lack of motivation, destroys quality and efficiency of sleep
- Stress Levels: Increases levels of stress hormones & blood pressure, harms heart (Have you ever experienced heartache before? ...yeah… I know… touchy subject </3)
- Possible early mortality
The Safety of Connection
- Decreases feelings of loneliness, anxiety, stress, and depression.
- Boosts our immune systems
- Elongates life spans
- Increases ability to handle stress
- Increases motivation
Loneliness is more a state of mind than a physical state. Being lonely does not necessarily mean you are alone. One can be alone and feel totally content. (Yes! It’s called “me-time”.) One can feel lonely whilst surrounded by crowds of people. (Ever been there? Ya, me too…) Actual and perceived social isolation are both associated with increased risk for early mortality.
- Less Social Media. It’s a superficial form of communication! It lacks emotional context and depth. Too much texting is even shown to damage romantic relationships! (Ever gotten irritated due to a miscommunication over text? …I’ll stop admitting to these…) “Disconnect to connect”. How often are you surrounded by friends or potential friends and you decide to check your “Insta” instead of building relationships?
- Get Outdoors (and turn off your phone while you’re there). Exposure to sunlight, fresh air and nature increases serotonin levels which improves a person’s state of mind. This sounds awfully similar to my article last week which you can read here.
- Human Interaction (and turn off your phone while you’re with them). Try to be with people in person! Positive relationships and physical touch boosts positive well-being. With holidays coming up, it is easy for those who do not have or are far from family or friends to feel depressed and lonely. How can you help others that may feel lonely during the holidays? It may be the saving grace to get out of the loneliness pit yourself.
- Take a Break (and turn off your phone while you’re doing it). There is a strong correlation between exhaustion and feelings of loneliness. Take a day off (what are you saving those vacation days for anyway?). Take time to get with some friends, take a hike, get a massage, etc. My motto is “work hard, play hard.” Try it out!
- Don’t Binge-Watch TV. TV shows are certainly good at getting us with those cliff hangers and even worse: Netflix’s “auto play” feature (where it will automatically go to the next episode at the conclusion of the first show). THE WORST thing for self-control. But not surprisingly, binge-watching TV and feelings of loneliness and depression are linked. We need human connection (and being with someone whilst binge-watching TV does not count).
- Get a Pet (and turn off your phone while you’re with it). Man’s best friend. Although pets do not provide the same level of connection as humans, they love unconditionally and are generous with affection. Plus, taking your pup to the dog park is a great way to get outside talking to other pet parents!
The “loneliness epidemic” is not one to take lightly. Technology, TV, and social media are here to stay (at least for the foreseeable future) so we must take control of our lives and build boundaries. Value relationships and real people and you will find a life vastly more fulfilled and a lot less… lonely.