Sleep. Ahhhhhhhhh, precious lovely SLEEEEEEEEEP.
People are social creatures. When we talk about the things that all people want, love and companionship are universally high on the list. Personal relationships are certainly fulfilling to your emotional health. But relationships also play a major role in your physical health, for better or for worse.
A study in the ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ (November 23, 2015) details the ways in which loneliness can adversely affect health. Researchers, including John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago, John Capitanio of UC Davis, and Steven W. Cole of UCLA, have found a link between loneliness and physical illness. According to the research team, which studied both humans and highly social macaque monkeys, feelings of loneliness can actually trigger a fight-or-flight response.
This, in turn, can affect the production of white blood cells, increase inflammation, and reduce immune response. In other words, those who are lacking strong social ties and intimate relationships are more prone to illness. In addition, the study ruled out other potential causes of these physical symptoms, such as stress or depression, in order to reach the conclusion that loneliness was the culprit for compromised health.
With the world becoming more technologically connected, it’s difficult to meet people “the old-fashioned way,” or to meet in person at all. But if you value your health, an active social life and strong personal relationships are a necessity.
What to do if you’re lonely? The good news is you’re not really alone. Many people harbor feelings of loneliness and are seeking friendship, companionship, and romantic relationships. In fact, the very digital communication devices that serve to separate people physically can also be used to help bring them together.
There are plenty of websites devoted to helping like-minded individuals connect with one another- and we’re not just talking about dating websites. There are a multitude of online groups, based on interests and commonalities, which you can use to find like-minded friends or companions. Just make sure to approach online relationships with caution – anonymity is a sad reality of digital interactions. With a little common sense, though, your online interactions could lead to real relationships.
You can also go old-school by finding ways to meet new people in person, but you have to be willing to put yourself out there and try new things. Take a class at your local community college, go to church, join a no-audition singing group, volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about. Explore new interests and meet a new group of people at the same time.
Many communities offer classes through community centers or the Parks and Recreation district. Whether you sign up for cooking, painting, dancing, or hiking, you could meet new people in your area that share your interests.
Overcoming loneliness isn’t easy, but with your health and happiness on the line, it’s well worth getting out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to take the leap and find the love and companionship you crave.