Impact of Loneliness on Physical Health
Loneliness, more than a transient emotional state, can significantly influence physical health. Loneliness doesn’t necessarily stem from being alone but from the impression of being socially isolated. This perception engages a chain reaction of physiological responses that trace back to survival instincts from our early days.
One noteworthy study in the journal “Heart” indicates that loneliness can render individuals more susceptible to heart disease and stroke (1). This vulnerability is due to stress responses instigated by feelings of loneliness, leading to elevated cortisol levels – a hormone synonymous with stress. Prolonged exposure to such high cortisol levels has extensive repercussions on cardiovascular health, causing hypertension or even heart failure.
Loneliness and Mental Health
Moreover, loneliness doesn’t limit its effects to physical ailments; it also extends its reach into mental well-being. Research conducted by Cacioppo et al., (2010) found a higher incidence of depressive symptoms amongst lonely individuals (2). Feelings of loneliness can skew an individual’s worldview towards negativity, diminishing their self-esteem and nurturing depressive symptoms.
Strategy 1: Building Meaningful Relationships
Now that we comprehend the negative impacts let’s delve into some evidence-based strategies that have proven effective against these effects. One such strategy emphasizes building meaningful relationships. Data collected by Holt-Lunstad et al., 2010 reveals that robust interpersonal relationships protect against mental health disorders like depression and anxiety (3).
An illustrative example is John, who lives alone and feels isolated after losing his wife. John could cultivate social interactions that alleviate his isolation by participating in community activities or volunteering at local charities.
Strategy 2: Practicing Mindfulness
Another potent strategy is practicing mindfulness which anchors us in the present moment warding off past regrets or future anxieties associated with loneliness. For instance, Sara felt progressively lonely after relocating for work which spiked her anxiety levels. But enrolling in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) taught her awareness about her feelings and thoughts, creating space between herself and her reactions resulting in reduced stress levels.
Strategy 3: Maintaining Physical Fitness
Lastly, maintaining physical fitness forms another key strategy for tackling the adverse effects of loneliness. Regular exercise prompts endorphin release – hormones synonymous with positive moods, and uplifting overall spirit (4). Consider Tom, who experienced bouts of loneliness following his divorce. Taking up jogging regularly not only kept him fit but also created opportunities for him to socialize with others sharing similar fitness interests.
In summary, alleviating feelings of loneliness isn’t a quick-fix task; it requires persistent effort to address underlying causes and invoke compassion towards oneself and others’ processes. We must remember to seek help when needed and maintain an open mind adapting different coping strategies that aim to build resilience against the negative impacts of loneliness, fostering healthier, happier lifestyles.
- 1.Valtorta N.K., Kanaan M., Gilbody S., Ronzi S., Hanratty B., 2016 ‘Loneliness and social isolation causal association with coronary heart disease stroke systematic review meta-analysis’. Heart 102(13):1009-16
- 2.Cacioppo J.T., Hawkley L.C., Thisted R.A., 2010 ‘Perceived social isolation makes me sad Perception versus reality’ Journal Personality Social Psychology 98(576-591)
- 3.Holt-Lunstad J., Smith T.B., Layton J.B ‘Social Relationships Mortality Risk Meta-Analytic Review’. PLoS Med 7(7):e1000316 (2010)
- 4.Babyak M.. Blumenthal J.A.. Herman S.. Khatri P.. Doraiswamy M.. Moore K.. Craighead E.W.. Baldewicz T.T.. Krishnan K.R ‘Exercise treatment major depression maintenance long-term follow-up’. Psychosomatic Medicine 62(5):633–638.