Stressed? You may actually be lonely.

Exploring the connection between loneliness and physical health—and how to improve your life.

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Western culture is infamous for promoting a fast-paced lifestyle of consumption. We work long hours, are glued to our cell phones, constantly scroll our social media feeds, and measure our value by the number of followers on Instagram.  Stress is ever-present, with people commonly complaining of feeling burned out. But that stress could actually be a result of loneliness. 

At the University of Chicago, psychologist John Cacioppo studies the impact of loneliness. His research has shown that loneliness results in “slowly unfolding pathophysiological processes.” This means that loneliness takes its toll on our physical, mental, and emotional health. 

When we blame our anxiety on a bad day at work, it actually could be because we are lonely and seeking meaningful human connection. Cacioppo’s studies have found that:

  • People who are lonely report higher levels of perceived stress than non-lonely people.
  • Living alone increases the risk of suicide.
  • Doctors said they can provide better medical care to patients who are not socially isolated.
  • Loneliness disturbs sleep, reducing its quality.
  • Loneliness raises blood pressure, stress hormones and puts strain on the heart and circulatory system.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s time to evaluate your relationships and set aside time to cultivate meaningful connections with others. Spending Friday night alone with takeout and a movie? Go out to a restaurant and chat with others who are hanging out. Other ways to build connections with others include:

  • Volunteering for a local charity, or animal shelter, or nursing home
  • Joining a gym or fitness program
  • Spending time at the park
  • Working remotely from a coffee shop
  • Joining a local meetup group

If you struggle with loneliness even after establishing relationships, consider talking to a professional counselor and being evaluated for depression. By working on your loneliness you can experience a higher level of happiness, joy, and quality of life.

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