Our Loneliness Epidemic
A recent article published by the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C highlights that loneliness and social isolation may be a greater public health hazard than obesity.
Yes, loneliness may be even worse for our health than obesity.
While this article and the many studies it is based off of have been making the news lately, it isn’t exactly “news” that strong social connections are good for our health.
Just taking a look at the world’s healthiest and longest-lived traditional cultures can tell you that strong social connections are one of the key elements of health. While the traditional people of Abkhasia in Russia, Okinawa in Japan, or Vilcamba in Ecuador had varying diets and lived in very different parts of the world, they undoubtedly all had one thing in common: their communities were close knit and everyone, throughout all stages of life, was cared for.
In our modern societies, however, loneliness is on the rise. Fewer people are getting married, and social media is becoming more heavily relied on than true social connection.
Loneliness and this lack of social connection can be predictors of depression and alcoholism, and the stress hormones that are associated with loneliness can have detrimental effects on the health of our hearts.
It’s important to remember that it’s okay to experience being alone – it’s different than loneliness. Most people need some solitude to recharge and relax. It’s when alone time no longer feels relaxing, restorative, and enjoyable and instead causes feelings of isolation, distraction, and upset, that the negative effects of loneliness can take place.
So what are some ways that we can combat loneliness? Here are some strategies:
- Spend some time outdoors. The combination of fresh air, sunlight, and nature can help combat some of the feelings of loneliness by increasing serotonin levels. Go somewhere with trees and enjoy a bit of activity like walking. If it’s an option, start a conversation with others – even if it’s just by smiling and saying “Hi” as you pass.
- Nurture others. Taking care of another being in some way, whether that’s caring for a pet, teaching others a new skill, or cooking a meal for a friend, can be a helpful way to alleviate loneliness.
- Improve your sleep quality and quantity. Loneliness can cause broken, poor quality sleep, and this lack of sleep can worsen moods and weaken the immune system. Practising meditation and good sleep hygiene before bed can be helpful.
- Call instead of text. Actually hearing someone’s voice, or better yet, seeing them in person, is a much more powerful way to connect and alleviate loneliness than texting or messaging on social media. Pick up the phone and call a friend or meet for coffee. You’ll be received - we all need this social connection, your friend included!
These are simple ways to reduce loneliness. While habits like these can be helpful to improve our moods, ultimately the most effective way to reduce loneliness is through establishing connections with people in person. So, find ways to invite true social connection into your life by reconnecting with loved ones. Your health and well-being are worth it!
By: Ali MacBoudreau
Ali is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant. Her mission is to help you discover just how vibrant and amazing you can feel, by giving you the tools you need to make lasting changes. (Hint, it involves delicious food!) To learn more about Ali and holistic nutrition please visit her website https://www.holisticali.com/about