6 Ways Your LONELINESS is Killing You (According to Experts)

Ever find yourself grappling with loneliness? Feel like you’re stuck in a lonely rut and unsure how to break free? Loneliness is a universal human experience; it’s an emotion that touches us all at some point. But moreso than that, according to Robert Waldinger, Harvard professor and psychiatrist, loneliness is an epidemic to society that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. And experts warn that it may be silently wreaking havoc on your well-being. 

Want to learn more? Here are 5 ways your loneliness is killing you, according to experts, and what you can do about it:

Increased Stress Levels

Feeling stressed out? Loneliness might be playing a bigger role than you think! According to experts, when we lack meaningful connections, our bodies can enter a chronic state of stress, releasing stress hormones like cortisol that, over time, can take a toll on our cardiovascular system. It’s not surprising then that lonely people tend to feel more tired and fatigued. If you find yourself dragging through the day, it might be worth checking in on your social connections. A little chat with a friend could be just the energy boost you need!

Weakened Immune System

When you’re lonely, your immune system weakens. See, when we feel happy and connected with other people, we release a lot of feel good hormones like oxytocin and endorphins that keep our immune system strong and ready for action. But when loneliness creeps in, it disrupts this balance by causing a drop in these positive hormones and triggering an increase in stress hormones like cortisol, making it harder to fight off illnesses. In fact, although positive relationships are known to be great stress-relief, lonely people don’t even benefit as much from social interactions as others do.

Accelerated Aging

Did you know that not having enough meaningful connections is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having a serious drinking problem? Yup, it’s true! Research in neuroscience and psychology has found that loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to our physical and mental health as obesity and equal to smoking and alcoholism. This is because lonely people tend to experience accelerated aging at a cellular level. Studies have found that loneliness seems to put our cells into a stress frenzy, leading to quicker wear and tear on the body. 

Heightened Sensitivity to Physical Pain

Another way loneliness kills you is by making you more sensitive to physical pain. Researchers found that when people are lonely, their brains react differently to pain, making them feel it more intensely. When you’re feeling lonely, it’s like your body turns up the volume on pain signals, so things might hurt more than usual. So, having good company isn’t just good for the heart; it might also help you ease any physical pain you might be feeling.

Cognitive Decline

Studies have found that cognitive decline is more common among lonely people – that means trouble with thinking, memory, learning, and making decisions. Not only that, it’s also associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease according to recent studies. After all, social engagement is a kind of mental stimulation, and without it, our brain cells begin to degenerate. So staying socially active is essential for maintaining a healthy brain, wouldn’t you agree?

Negative Impact on Mental Health

Loneliness often leads to feelings of sadness, shame, and self-doubt. Think of it as having a cloud over your thoughts. Over time, these feelings can start to overflow and may lead to serious mental health consequences like depression and anxiety. So it’s important to find ways to connect with others and let some sunshine back into our minds!

What You Can Do About It

So, do you relate to any of the things we’ve talked about so far? If you’re struggling with loneliness, know that it doesn’t have to stick around – you have the power to overcome it! First, recognize it as a sign that something needs to change. Now, don’t expect miracles overnight, but you can start taking little steps that’ll help you feel more connected. Focus on nurturing your existing relationships and seeking out people who share similar attitudes, interests, and values with you. Join social groups, like an after-school club, sports team, an exercise class, or a volunteer group. And if the loneliness persists, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health expert for help. 

People generally are social by nature, and high-quality social relationships can help us live longer, healthier lives. While it’s true that everyone feels lonely from time to time, understanding the potential impact of chronic loneliness on our health is crucial to combating it. So, next time you find yourself feeling lonely, consider reaching out – your health may thank you for it in the long run.

What about you? What steps are you planning to take to deal with your loneliness? Let us know your thoughts and advice in the comments down below! And remember, you belong. You matter. You’re connected.

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