Feeling lonely or isolated has been an issue that has plagued mankind since the beginning of time according to the research. Feelings of loneliness or isolation fall under the umbrella of dealing with emotional pain and can lead to or be sourced by depression, low self-esteem, feeling overwhelmed with life or a number of physical or environmental changes taking place in your life. It’s one of many topics that we simply don’t talk about. Not talking about loneliness or feeling isolated doesn’t help or change things. One of my personal goals is to help you boost your happiness and ability to function well in life, therefore it’s critical that you understand the ins and outs of loneliness and isolation, the impact on health, and the tips that will help you decrease the amount of time you spend feeling lonely or isolated – meaning the actions that you can take to minimize feeling lonely or isolated. Shameless plug – don’t forget to enter my FREE giveaway in the Year of Freedom to win some cool stuff – why not?
Let’s get on the same page with the definition of lonely: sadness because one has no friends or company. Isolated is defined as: having minimal contact or little in common with others. Interestingly the definition of isolated lists words like lonely, lonesome, unreachable and cutoff. Feeling lonely or isolated is not fun, cool, or good in anyway, yet it is extremely common. You can definitely feel alone even when you are with a group of people, which means that you can feel lonely even if you are with a person or group of people. Being alone – all by yourself – doesn’t necessarily mean that you are feeling lonely. These are two different concepts and people can be alone without feeling lonely or conversely you could be with people yet feel very alone or lonely.
“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” –Mother Teresa
Of all of the populations, Generation Z (meaning young people from ages 18 to 22) comes out as the loneliest and claim to be in worse health than older generations. Forty-six percent of Americans report either sometimes or always feeling alone or left out. Only roughly half of Americans are reported to have meaningful in-person social interactions. Is it any wonder why suicide is the 10th leading cause of death? Suicide increased by 33% in America from 1999 to 2017. This increase in suicide point to the increasing unhappiness, loneliness and isolation people feel.
First off, every human being experiences feelings of loneliness or isolation from time to time. It’s just part of being human. There is nothing wrong with you if you feel lonely or isolated or both. You are NOT a failure if you feel lonely or isolated. There is absolutely NO reason for you to feel embarrassed or ashamed if you feel lonely or isolated. As I just listed, you are in very good company. I am having this conversation or blog post so that you can have a breakthrough in this area. Loneliness and feelings of isolation don’t feel good and aren’t good for your health at all, which is a good reason to soak in the content of this post and then take the actions required to put an end to those feelings. Feelings of loneliness or isolation could mean is that it’s time to make some changes in your life. You can use these feelings as a springboard for change. So why are we feeling so lonely and isolated?
Why Are We So Lonely and Disconnected?
Changes in the nuclear family – it’s no longer like the Walton’s on TV with a whole family living together including the grandparents all loving and supporting each other. No, family members are scattered across the country or sometimes not even in the same country. This change in and of itself leads to loneliness and isolation because you are separated from your family members.
Social Media – There is no question that instead of gathering around someone’s dining room table for laughter, fun and food that people of all ages are glued to their social media feed. Some of the research indicates that this is not helpful when people compare themselves to others and end up feeling like their life doesn’t measure up to what they see on their friend’s social media.
On-line gaming – Gone are the days of meeting at the corner gaming place to play pinball or other electronic games. Now people can play on-line without ever leaving their home. While there are sandbox games and ways that people can game with others in an online community, it is not the same as being in the physical presence of other people.
Cell phones and apps – Look around at people out in public and instead of talking to strangers and having pleasant conversations people are glued to their cell phones whether they are talking, playing games or doing some app or another. Clearly cell phone technology has amazing benefits, yet it disconnects people that could meet and become friends.
Lack of Knowing How to Make Friends or Get Connected: We have a generation of young people who were never exposed to the social graces of how to make friends, talk to strangers and develop deep, meaningful friendships.
Independence valued over Dependence: We live in a culture where independence is highly valued over the interconnectedness of being in a nuclear family, a.k.a. the Walton’s, where there was always someone there to help, cheer you on and provide support. People are reluctant to ask for help, share their feelings or be vulnerable.
On-line shopping – How much interaction is necessary for on-line shopping? The convenience is fantastic yet it cuts us off from social interactions and developing relationships with retailers. Back in the day people actually had relationships with the shop keepers, bankers, butcher and other business owners.
Experiencing a broken heart: divorce, death, breakups can be a big cause for loneliness and feeling isolated. There is nothing that ramps up feelings of loneliness or isolation like a broken heart. This is more common now with the breakdown of the nuclear family unit.
Geographic move to a new area – Moving and having to make new friends in a new town is a big cause for loneliness and isolation. Frequent moves can have an impact on a person’s willingness to make the effort.
Job changes – Changing jobs can also be a source of losing connections and longtime co-workers causing feelings of loneliness and isolation until new relationships are established.
Changes in the relationship status/family status of your friends or family. If your friends get married, start a family, or experience some other change, which impacts their ability to spend time with you that could leave you feeling lonely and isolated.
Lack of a spouse, intimate partner, companion or roommate – Not having a roommate, spouse, partner or companion can be a big source of loneliness and isolation especially since more people are living alone than in previous decades.
The OverScheduling of Kids – Some parents over schedule their children with so many activities that there is simply little room for playing with their friends cutting them off from learning the valued skills of how to have and maintain friendships.
Negative Health Consequences of Loneliness & Social Isolation:
It heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having an alcohol disorder according to the research.
It is twice as harmful to both physical health and mental health as obesity.
It increases a person’s risk of premature death from all causes for every race.
It is associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia.
Poor social relationships, meaning loneliness or social isolation, is associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
Loneliness is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.
Loneliness in heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 fold increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and a 57% increased risk of emergency room visits.
It increases depression.
It causes poor sleep quality.
It impairs the executive functioning of the brain, which can impact the working memory, flexible thinking and self-control.
It speeds up cognitive decline.
It causes poor cardiovascular function.
It impairs the immune system at every stage of life.
It contributes to child abuse when the abuser is lonely.
It contributes to personality disorders.
Signs that Could Point to Loneliness
These items do not automatically indicate loneliness but they could be a sign of potential loneliness.1. They spend a lot of time alone.
They are unproductive.
They dwell on the negatives.
They seem to get sick often.
They seem overly attached to their possessions or hobbies.
They seem to do a lot of binge-watching of shows.
They seem tired a lot.
They spend a lot of time on social media.
They have gained weight.
They shop a great deal.
They take very long hot showers or baths.
They talk about themselves a lot – redirecting the conversation back to themselves.
They engage in mindless talk – they are talking without really saying anything.
They engage in attention seeking behaviors or are manipulative.
They have poor social skills.
They have low self-esteem.
They constantly interrupt others.
They are living in the extreme.
“The eternal quest of the human being is to shatter his loneliness.”
Some of the Top Benefits to Dealing with Loneliness & Isolation:
You will avoid the negative health impacts listed above.
You will likely learn new things because you are spending time with people.
You will have gained new life-sustaining skills.
You will be contributing to the wellbeing of another human being outside of yourself.
You won’t dread getting up in the morning.
You will have things and people to look forward to.
Tips for Putting Loneliness and Isolation to Bed:
Recognize it. Name it. Claim it.
Don’t judge or condemn yourself for having these feelings. It is normal. It is common.
Understand the significant benefits that come from addressing this issue. Don’t you want to be happy and grab all of the benefits that come with happiness and feeling good? Of course you do!
Make a commitment to address this area. Make it a priority.
Create a plan of actions and steps that you can take to alleviate the loneliness and isolation.
Start talking to people about this. Open up. Trust me other people are lonely and feel isolated – even people in marriages and intimate relationships have these feelings at times or in some relationships loneliness and isolation are the name of the game.
Give up the shame and any embarrassment. I mean it!
Ask for help! People will help you more often than not.
Make new friends. Say to people: I need new (or more) friends! Who do you know? See my post about making new friends. Just do it!
Volunteering is a fantastic way to meet new people, make potential friends, contribute to a worthwhile organization, and not be isolated. Volunteering is a fast way to jump start dealing with these issues. You can use this as a stopgap measure while you are going through the process of making new friends or more friends.
Work on your own growth and development. Sometimes, it’s low self-esteem, anxiety issues or some attitudes or beliefs that keep you lonely and isolated. Growth and development can help you in so many ways to address the underlying issues that could be contributing to your feelings of loneliness or feeling isolated. Trust me, it’s amazing!
Bump up your self-care right now! Do not wait! It will help you feel better and help you get motivated. Yes. It is THAT important!
Get a pet or become a volunteer at a pet shelter. If you don’t want to commit to getting a pet many shelters need temporary foster homes for pets.
Suicide Warning/Mental Health Waiver
If you have any thoughts of suicide or harming yourself or others please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911 immediately. Please call someone, tell someone or post it on social media and ask for help right now! We have more people suffering from depression, anxiety, and negative emotions than ever before, which means that you are in good company. I am asking that you take a specific action if you are feeling suicidal or that harming yourself because your life matters more than you realize and because there is help available to you. I am not a licensed mental health professional or in the field of medicine. You should get your medical advice from a licensed medical professional. Although my posts are research and experience based, they do not constitute medical advice since I am not a medical professional in any capacity.
Call to Action:
Isn’t it time for you to have a wonderful, rich, fun and amazing life? Isn’t it time to end those awful feelings of loneliness and isolation? Why wouldn’t you want to do that? What are you willing to do to end these feelings? How can I help you? Who else do you know who is struggling with this? Right now, it’s most people! Consider sharing this to give your people a boost. Please let me know how I can help you tackle this issue or other things that are preventing you from having a happy and healthy life.