As human beings connecting with other people helps us to thrive in more ways than we might realise.
This simple fact is demonstrated by the many recent studies identifying the specific ways loneliness has an effect not only on our mental health, but our physical health too.
1 in 4 Australians consider themselves lonely
1 in 2 Australians report feeling lonely for a least a day in the previous week
1 in 3 Australians never or rarely feel part of a group of friends
The impact of these statistics?
- loneliness increases the chance of being anxious about social interactions
- lonely people are more prone to headaches
- increased stomach complaints are recorded in lonely people
- if you are lonely you will be 15% more likely to experience depression
- when someone is lonely their experience of physical pain is often worse
- loneliness results in more frequent respiratory infections
- loneliness causes poorer sleep
The confounding problem around all these issues is that the experience of physical or mental ill health may cause a person to withdraw more from social interactions. It becomes a vicious perpetuating cycle.
Some solutions could include:
Go through your list of social media friends/contacts & make a pact with yourself to try contact one of these friends in person (not on-line) weekly. You may notice that they are also feeling out of contact with real friends which helps to normalise your own experience.
Join a new local group or community class, to gently push yourself out of your bubble. It can be as simple as a reading/book club or learning a whole new skill for further self esteem boosting benefits
Try not be so harsh on yourself for “falling into a rut”. The vast majority of us have busy lives that become consumed with doing instead of being. Look for the small delights, the human contacts, a smile toward someone in the Street, a thank you to the Postie, a chat with the supermarket cashier. Search for opportunities to reach out.
Pet sit or adopt a pet. Even small creatures like guinea pigs are low maintenance yet comforting, offering connection with another living being. Dogs are likeable, cats more aloof, gold fish may not be such a great idea unless you enjoy simply watching them!
Invest in a means of exploring your physical conditions and their causes. Better physical health creates a positive place to start dealing with mental health issues, and personal life challenges. As a Naturopath who focuses on mental illness this is my forte.
Remember, loneliness is a normal emotion that everyone experiences. How you deal with this is the defining part of your journey ahead for 2019. I’m here to help.