Did You Know Loneliness Could Be Affecting Your Health?
Loneliness is a pervasive problem that affects people of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures. It's a feeling that can arise from a lack of social connection, whether it be the result of isolation, social exclusion, or the breakdown of relationships. While many of us might think of loneliness as a temporary and relatively harmless emotion, research has shown that its effects on physical health can be profound and far-reaching.
When people are socially disconnected, their risk of anxiety and depression increases. “According to a recent article in The New York Times by Lila Barth social disconnection can significantly increase the risk of anxiety, depression, heart disease (29 percent), dementia (50 percent), and stroke (32 percent). The article also suggests that the increased risk of premature death associated with social disconnection is comparable to that of smoking daily and may even be greater than the risk associated with obesity.”
Loneliness doesn't just affect our physical health; it can also take a toll on our mental well-being. Studies have shown that people who feel lonely are more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, and may even be at greater risk of developing mental health disorders. The effects of loneliness on our minds and bodies can create a vicious cycle, as feelings of isolation and disconnection can lead to a range of negative emotions and behaviours that only serve to exacerbate the problem. In fact, research suggests that loneliness may be just as much of a public health concern as obesity or substance abuse, highlighting the urgent need for interventions to address this growing problem.
Why is it in a world where we are more digitally connected than ever that the increase of loneliness is continuing to rise. According to a survey conducted by the Irish Red Cross in 2018, loneliness is a widespread issue among people under the age of 50 in Ireland. The survey found that almost 80% of respondents aged 18-24 reported feeling lonely, while 60% of respondents aged 25-34 reported experiencing loneliness. The survey also highlighted that the use of social media and digital communication did not necessarily alleviate feelings of loneliness, and that face-to-face interactions and community engagement were important in combating this issue. These findings suggest that loneliness is not limited to older adults in Ireland, but is a widespread problem affecting people of all ages.
Reducing use of technology: To tackle the issue of loneliness, it is important to reconsider our reliance on technology and create opportunities for genuine human connection. This requires consciously setting aside time without devices so that we can be fully present with those around us. Furthermore, we must be mindful of our online behaviour and avoid engaging in discussions that promote judgment and hostility instead of empathy and understanding. By taking these steps, we can foster more positive relationships and create a healthier, more connected society.
Find your Tribe: Another effective way to tackle loneliness is by fostering a sense of community and belonging. This can be achieved through various means, such as participating in social clubs or groups, volunteering, or attending community events. By engaging with others who share our interests or values, we can create meaningful connections and develop a sense of purpose and belonging.Making new friends in Adulthood can be difficult especially if you are already feeling isolated. It is important to take part in activities that bring you joy and you will likely meet new people with similar interests. We have wrote a whole article on 'Finding your Tribe' which we would highly recommend.
Strengthen existing relationships: In addition, building strong relationships with family and friends can also help to combat feelings of isolation and disconnection. Regularly reaching out to loved ones, planning activities together, and being a supportive presence in their lives can all help to strengthen social bonds and reduce the impact of loneliness.
Adopt a friend for life: Pets, especially dogs and cats, offer so many benefits, and preventing loneliness is one of them. Rescuing a pet combines the benefits of altruism and companionship, and fights loneliness in several ways. It can connect you with other people—walking a dog opens you up to a community of other dog-walkers, and a cute dog on a leash tends to be a people magnet. Additionally, pets provide unconditional love, which can be a great salve for loneliness.
Self-Care: When you're feeling lonely, be sure you're doing what you can to take care of yourself in other ways. Self-care is always a good idea, but especially when you are feeling down. Eating nutritious food, exercising, getting enough sleep and journaling will only make you feel better in the long run. We highly recommend journaling as the perfect place to practice mindfulness, and The Head Plan Productivity and Wellness Journal and Gratitude Journal are the perfect place to start.
Feelings of loneliness can spiral into feelings of sadness and anxiety, It is important to remember that there are many ways to reconnect with others and it is important to feel grounded in order to positively make changes to reconnect. You can find a meditation from leading meditation app Head Space on reframing loneliness here.
It's important to recognise that loneliness is not an inevitability, but rather a challenge that can be overcome through intentional action. By actively seeking out opportunities for human connection and community involvement, we can break free from the isolating grip of modern life and find deeper meaning and purpose in our relationships. Be kind to yourself in the process and use this as an opportunity to deepen your connection with those who are truly meant to be in your life and support you. Your tribe will influence your vibe and here at the head plan we always have time for our tribe. That’s YOU.