What happens when you feel lonely? Should we stop complaining and simply learn to do life alone?! No! Our tagline is that it is better to do life together. We are wired to be with people. Loneliness and isolation are bad for the body, mind, and soul.
Healthy relationships help prevent anxiety and depression by building sophisticated neural networks in the brain that help modulate the stress response. And when stress is reduced, people feel better both mentally and physically. In fact, people who are isolated end up with more chronic pain. Disconnection, we believe, follows the same pathway as pain. So being left out, rejected, and without people in your life makes you more susceptible to physical and emotional pain.
If you are lonely, get connected in your community and find friends. Join a church, a small group, take an exercise class, a cooking class or find a hobby that involves others. People need people!
I love that my elderly father lives in a community that forces people out of their apartments to eat three meals a day together. The social aspect of eating does much to create a sense of community in his apartment complex. I often wonder how many of those people would sit alone in their apartments day after day if they didn’t need to eat and share meals.
So when my dad complains about going to play bingo or going to movie night, I let him complain and then make him go, knowing it’s not the activity that matters, but the fact that he is interacting with other people and making friends. And for the elderly, this is critical.
But you don’t have to be elderly to benefit from connecting with people. Our need for people is as basic as our need for water and food. We all need to be up close and personal with other people.
Isolation is not something to ignore. So get out there and give it your best to connect with other people. Don’t go it alone. Get a pet or volunteer to help in a food shelter or activity at your church. Find your tribe, a place you fit in and can do life with other people. It’s too important to your overall well-being.
Dr. Linda Mintle – Therapist & Author