The Feeling of Loneliness and Its Impact on Physical Health
Feeling lonely? An estimated 3 in 5 Americans experience loneliness, and it could be impacting more than just your mental health.
Some get it confused when they think of those that are lonely. Loneliness is often misunderstood. Many people define loneliness based on the amount of time a person spends with family or friends, but loneliness can be much more than this.
Causes of Loneliness
A lack of personal connection is a major factor when someone's experiencing feelings of loneliness. Someone feeling lonely often feels misunderstood or isolated. One common cause of loneliness is regular use of social media. Those who engage with social media tend to experience more feelings of loneliness compared to those who don't engage with social media platforms.
Those who feel less lonely are more likely to:
• Have good relationships with coworkers
• Have good overall health
• Have deeper interactions with others
• Have balance in life through social interactions
• Get regular exercise
Signs of Loneliness
People who feel lonely sometimes find it difficult to connect with others beyond a superficial level. In most cases, they'll have more acquaintances than close friends. Feelings of isolation are common, even when surrounded by people.
Related: Changing Your Attitude May Lower Your Stress Level
How it Affects Your Physical Health
If you've experienced ongoing feelings of loneliness, it can have negative effects on your physical health. It could lead to weight gain, sleep deprivation, poor heart health, and a weakened immune system. Loneliness can also put your body under more stress than normal. An increased amount of stress can increase blood pressure and affect your memory and problem-solving skills.
Ways to Combat Loneliness
Making personal connections is key to combatting feelings of loneliness. It's always a good idea to check in with your own feelings and discuss them with others. Again, it's not a matter of how many friends you have, but the presence of close relationships. Having good relationships will improve your mood and create an opportunity to meet people with same interests. Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. Start a regular exercise regime and fuel your body with nutritious foods. Eating to take care of your body and getting adequate sleep is essential to improving and maintaining your mental and physical health.
If you or someone you know is at risk, seek help. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24-hours/day: 800-273-TALK (8255) suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline – 1-800-622-HELP (4357). Free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish).
Note: The concepts here are not a substitute or treatment for clinical depression and the advice in this post may not address symptoms of diagnosed clinical depression.