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Why is Loneliness Worse Than Smoking?

Mindful Living Network, Mindful Living, Dr. Kathleen Hall, The Stress Institute,, MLN, Alter Your Life, Mindful Animals, Animals

Loneliness is Lethal

Connecting with people has been made easy with all of our recent technological advances; however, cases of loneliness seem to be rising. These rising isolation cases can have devastating consequences as social relationships impact mental and physical health. In fact, loneliness leads to health complications like high levels of cortisol and overeating.

In a recent national survey of American adults, 36% of respondents reported serious loneliness—feeling lonely “frequently” or “almost all the time” or “all the time” in the four weeks prior to the survey. This included 61% of young people aged 18-25 and 51% of mothers with young children.

There are lethal consequences to loneliness. Researchers have found that loneliness is just as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Lonely people are 50% more likely to die prematurely than those with healthy social relationships. Loneliness reduces your immunity, which can increase your risk of disease. Loneliness also increases inflammation in the body, which can contribute to heart disease and other chronic health conditions.

Stress will also affect you more if you’re lonely. Financial trouble, health problems, and everyday obstacles may take a bigger emotional toll on individuals who lack social and emotional support.

There are several ways to overcome your loneliness.  It’s the quality of your social connections that counts, not exactly the quantity. So it’s important to discover and maintain healthy, fulfilling relationships.

Overcoming Loneliness 

Learn What Triggers Your Loneliness

To better treat your loneliness take the time to examine what is triggering this emotion for you. Triggers for loneliness vary from the loss of a partner to relocation. Other triggers for loneliness include the following: isolation (due to lack of money or transportation), exclusion from activities, retirement, or caregiving roles. Take time to reflect on your situation and create a plan on how you will bust your loneliness.

Build Your Courage

Sometimes people isolate themselves because making new friends can be nerve wracking. To end your loneliness it’s important to take steps to build up your courage. Be mindful of your thoughts. Stay positive and build your self-esteem by listing all the characteristics that you love about yourself. Don’t forget to acknowledge and accept your own limitations; no one is perfect and that’s okay. Remember that you aren’t alone in feeling nervous when meeting new people and that the benefits of forming new connections outnumber any fears you may have.

Follow Your Passion

Do an inventory of things you love. Do you love birds? Join your local Audubon Society. Do you like gardening? Join a local gardening club or go to a local nursery and ask what classes they have. Do  you like to cook? Join a local cooking class. Do you love animals? Volunteer at a local rescue operation. You will meet amazing friends at these types of places. Follow your passion and you will meet your tribe and ease your loneliness.

Greet the Neighbors

Studies show that one type of relationship that is on the decline in this time of isolation is neighborly connections. Fewer Americans are taking the time to greet and get to know their neighbors. This is unfortunate as neighbors are important for building a strong community and social connections. So, consider giving a welcome kit to new neighbors. Or join a local neighborhood committee to meet more of your neighbors.

Reconnect With Old Friends

Studies also show voluntary associations (relationships that are not based on marriage, biological relations, or work associations) have also decreased in recent years. Revive these “voluntary friendships.” Start regular contact (phone calls, text messages, email, or visits) with your long-lost friends. Frequent and consistent contact can strengthen weak friendships.

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