Loneliness is a perfectly normal feeling, but you don’t have to feel this way all the time. Loneliness causes people feel alone, unwanted and empty. Unfortunately for some people, loneliness is more than a fleeting feeling. In 2017, a cover story for the Harvard Business Review, former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy declared that “the world is suffering from an epidemic of loneliness.”
Loneliness Plays into Your State of Mind
Being alone does not necessarily mean you are lonely but if you feel alone and isolated, then that is how loneliness plays into your state of mind. For example, you can be traveling with a group of people for weeks at a time but still feel alone or even be highly social. It’s this state of mind that makes it difficult to connect with other people even when they want the connection.
What Causes Loneliness?
Loneliness comes from people not feeling comfortable letting other people close to them. Source: Lesli Musicar
“Cause of loneliness can be genetics.” Source: Dr. John Cacioppo Other factors can be death of a loved one, lack of intimacy, relationship breakup such as divorce, moving to a new city or starting at a new job. It can also be psychological disorder such as depression Source: Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago
Negative Effects of Feeling Lonely
Disruptive sleep that causes poor memory and learning
Antisocial behavior which leads to further isolation and feelings of loneliness
Alcoholism and/or drug abuse
Increasing your stress levels
Cognitive disorder such as depression
Weak immune system. Why does this happen? One pathway researchers have identified is that stress hormones, in conjunction with other hormones and peptides secreted from the brain, “talk” to specific parts of the body’s white blood cells, affecting their distribution and function. Source: ncbi
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“Lonely adjusts consume more alcohol and get less exercise than those who are not lonely. Their diet is higher in fat, their sleep is less efficient, and they report more daytime fatigue. Loneliness also disrupts the regulation of cellular processes deep within the body, predisposing us to premature aging.” – Dr. John Cacioppo
Ways to Heal from Loneliness
Recognize that loneliness is a sign that something needs to change.
Avoid Isolating Yourself
If you are already feeling lonely and you keep to yourself, it can become worse, so force yourself to go out there and interact.
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If you’re chronically lonely, you may be fearful of letting people get close. First, learn to love yourself.
“Practice small talk with cashiers and the other people you encounter throughout your day. When you go into your favorite coffee shop, make a simple comment about the weather or the music that’s playing. Don’t think of this as a time to start a long conversation, more as a way of making those brief, seemingly impersonal interactions a bit more friendly and inviting. It can decrease the feeling of loneliness as you’re building your social network in other areas. Plus, if you practice this small talk in a variety of situations, it’s easier to start a conversation with people you think you want to become friends with. It’s a win-win.” —Darin Bergen, clinical psychologist
Make a Connection
Spend time improving the quality of your friendships, relationship with your partner and/or family members. It also helps if you can connect and develop a stronger connection with people who share similar interest or values.
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Volunteer for a Worthy Cause
Volunteering at an animal shelter or orphanage will help you feel good and put things into perspective.
Keep Yourself Busy
Picking up a new hobby will be an opportunity to meet new people that can lead to creating new friendships or community.
Find Someone to Talk To
Finding someone you can trust to talk to about your situation will help. It can be a friend, a therapist or family member to open up about your feelings.
What do you do when you are feeling lonely?