With technology driving constant communication, and social media connecting more people than ever, you’d think that loneliness would be on the decline. However, that’s not really the case. The data show an increase rather than decrease in loneliness for younger generations; but they show some potential cures for loneliness as well.
Why do we need a cure for loneliness?
According to Forbes, more than two in ten adults reported that they often or always feel lonely, feel a lack of companionship or feel isolated. And other, more reliable studies show the numbers are even higher.
Surveys and polls have indicated that loneliness reaches epidemic levels for Millennials and younger generations, with many individuals having no close friends or acquaintances. Studies have also shown that people who are lonely are more likely to suffer from stroke, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. And loneliness is obviously closely linked to depression.
If loneliness can cause all this, shouldn’t we be combing the data, to cure loneliness?
If you’re feeling unbearable loneliness right now, connect with others who are feeling the same way in a Supportiv chat. And if you can hold on to try some loneliness cures from the data, find do-able ideas below.
The impact of loneliness on physical health
Research has shown that loneliness is linked to various illnesses and diseases in older adults. Most cases call for preventative measures against loneliness in your younger years, which may help feel the cumulative benefits of a socially active life. But it’s never too late to become socially connected — there are many ways, and many reasons, to do it. Let’s get to the reasons first.
Loneliness and stroke/cardiovascular issues
Loneliness and isolation is not the cause of stroke or cardiovascular disease, however it has been shown to increase morbidity in older adults. Over time, perceived social isolation or loneliness causes stress, inflammation, and depression; these social factors in turn may contribute to compromised immune systems, atherosclerosis, and high blood pressure.
These disease-related processes are exacerbated by loneliness, and they explain how loneliness can contribute to physical health problems.
Loneliness and stress
We’re always going through something, whether it’s at the front of our minds or not. Talking to someone about what’s on your mind can help — you in ways you may not even notice.
When we have a comfortable connection with others, seeing them, talking to them and being in their company raises our dopamine levels. Dopamine is a feel-good chemical that helps keep stress and depression at bay. It’s one chemical related to substance dependence and addictions – but why not get your relief from people, if socializing releases the same chemicals as substances?
Without connection and social support, your stress hormones (cortisol) elevate, and you have less circulating dopamine to counter the stress. When you’re isolated, you’re stuck feeling stressed out not just mentally, but physically as well.
Loneliness and sleep issues
Can’t sleep because you feel like you need to get something off your chest but have nobody to talk to? The connection between loneliness and sleep issues shows that we need basic social interaction for our bodies to function optimally.
Feeling understood allows you to release nagging thoughts from your mind, and sleep peacefully. On the flipside, prolonged loneliness may tamper with your ability to fall asleep easily. Let it out instead of tossing and turning with your thoughts.
Data-based loneliness cures
Given the serious impact of loneliness demonstrated above, it is clear that you owe it to yourself: take action when you start feeling lonely!
You don’t have to do something big – just a small step that you can feel comfortable with. That could look like connecting with others in an anonymous space, or trying one of the baby steps below.
You don’t want to be lonely for so long that it affects your health. So let’s look at some of the interventions to cure loneliness based on previous studies:
Set yourself up with volunteer check-ins
Yes, there are people out there who actually want to talk to you, check that you’re doing okay and have a conversation with you about anything you like!
The impact of having someone, even a stranger, interested in your wellbeing may help to cure loneliness. One place you can feel cared for by others is at Supportiv, 24/7 and on-demand. But you can also sign up through in-person or phone-based volunteer check-ins.
One elderly lady explains what these check-in calls mean to her. There are volunteer organizations that set up weekly/monthly calls to you, or visit and spend time with you. You can read more about some of these organizations, here.
Try group therapy
It helps to have people around who are experiencing the same as you. And it can be hard to open up about your struggle to a therapist, one-on-one.
Discussing shared struggles can allow you a sense of belonging and connection. You can gain insight into how you are feeling, relate to others and gain perspective on your situation.
There are in-person and online alternatives for group-based therapy. Group therapy sessions are confidential and allow you to connect with others on a personal level.
Get involved with education and awareness
More mental health organizations and communities are creating events and workshops surrounding loneliness and how to overcome it. Get involved to heal while meeting people who have been in your shoes!
You can share information on the battle with loneliness, to help those around you understand your struggle better. Share some info with your network on how to identify loneliness and help each other through it – start here!
Consider professional assistance
If you feel unable to cope with feeling lonely one more day, consider whether a mental wellness professional can help you through the pain.
Professional help can be in the form of therapy or medicinal interventions – you’d be surprised by how many people use this type of support.
“A season of loneliness and isolation is when the caterpillar gets its wings. Remember that next time you feel alone.” — Mandy Hale
Don’t be afraid to share your experiences with loneliness, or how any of these potential cures worked for you. You can always feel the support of peers who are going through the same on Supportiv, anytime.