How to Combat Increasing Loneliness
Worldwide protocols have mandated for social distancing, or even isolation for our own safety, and the safety of our communities. This has led to an increase in loneliness in many people’s lives.
Without a doubt, we are in hard and challenging times, and it’s bringing up so much for so many. We are being tested with new levels of uncertainty. We are figuring out how to navigate, cope, and establish a sense of security for ourselves and our families.
This new way of living has brought about many new and unprecedented challenges for many segments of society including for our kids, the elderly, and within the more high-risk and vulnerable categories. Loneliness is high up on this list of new realities.
All these variables of our new lifestyles are challenging so many people facing the very new reality of additional stress in the stark face of loneliness.
For the past couple of decades, scientists have called loneliness a pandemic, and COVID-19 made the current situation even worse due to increased social isolation.
Numerous studies demonstrate that social isolation and loneliness are major risk factors that affect both physical and mental health. They can cause increased blood pressure, depression, anxiety, poorer cognitive functioning, and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The reason is the “stress hormone” cortisol, which is responsible for our mood. Most people do not understand the importance of recognizing stress and knowing how it is affecting the body and the mind. The stress caused by loneliness may even alter the body’s biochemical processes. This is why it’s so important to understand how our mood and wellbeing can be affected by isolation and take conscious actions while going through this uncertainty period.
First, you need to realize that forced quarantine isolation is not a prison. By observing quarantine, you are helping others, the weak, the elderly, & the high-risk sectors. By following protocol, you are doing your duty to society.
Having personally experienced the loss of a parent to Covid-19, I can understand the threat that we all face every day from this invisible microscopic enemy is very real. I believe that a sense of collective responsibility will help us all cope with loneliness and isolation more easily.
Due to the various lockdown policies, social events may be now no longer available. So for a large number of people, the daily human contact may be reduced to seeing a delivery person bringing groceries or other essential items to the front door
Social isolation is a frequent measure to protect the high-risk groups, mainly the elderly. However, this has led to increased feelings of loneliness.
At the same time, while social isolation during COVID-19 can be life-saving, it also deprives the elderly of fundamental human needs for community, fellowship, and bonding.
In fact, loneliness & isolation may affect all age groups. While kids and teenagers miss playing with their peers, which to them is an important part of the learning process, their parents miss, professional meetups, socializing, dinners with friends, and traveling. It is the social interaction that our brains are programmed for. People need people. Feeling lonely is exactly the same as feeling hunger, thirst, or pain. Without people around, we may suffer physically, emotionally, and more precisely, neurobiologically.
The work of the brain and mind is a very ancient evolutionary process. They determine our need for other people and our reactions to stress. Human nature is changing much more slowly than technological trends. Most of the technologies, without which we cannot imagine our lives today, did not exist 100 years ago, and some 20 or even a few years ago. The human brain, both in structure and in functions, remains the same as it was many thousands of years ago.
Today, many human activities may be mimicked and even taken over by technologies like smartphones and computers.
This technological progress may potentially lead to a real threat of decline in our cognitive activity. For example, who today remembers their kids, friends, or more than a handful of cell numbers? For me, growing up, I memorized all these numbers, a task that would be extremely challenging for me today!
At the same time, on the other side of the coin, we live in an age of unprecedented communication opportunities. These opportunities need to be used to provide medical and psychological assistance remotely. Some research suggests that telemedicine services can alleviate loneliness and be beneficial for those living alone or far from health facilities.
While this can be a great short-term solution, we still need to focus on certain routines that will help us stay healthy both physically and mentally. A set of simple yet very powerful activities can make a huge difference.
No matter how sophisticated modern technologies are, they do not allow hugging, holding hands, massage, or otherwise touching loved ones. Such manifestations of sympathy, love & connection as studies show, have a positive effect on our health, contribute to lowering blood pressure, and can even make you feel better from many discomforts and ailments.
Another important aspect is the daily routine.
Order, a clear structure of activities gives confidence, strengthens during stressful situations, and clarifies the perspective. Specifically, this means not spending half a day in a bathrobe or pajamas!
Get up in the morning and make an effort to prepare yourself for the day, even if you’ll spend it at home. This simple routine is a great morale booster.
In order to adapt to a healthy work-life balance, we need to keep ourselves in balance both mentally and physically. Be intentional about developing healthy habits that will increase our personal and work productivity. Establishing a healthy work-life balance is a very important goal to maintain.
Try to plan your day in detail and stick to that plan. Then you will not have the feeling that you are powerless and you just go with the flow. When planning the day, clearly define the time when you work, spend the time with your kids, when you go out to get some fresh air if allowed. And it is imperative for each member of your family to allocate some time for themselves, this will reduce the likelihood of conflicts.
Our brain is simply not designed for such a passive lifestyle. It may begin to work poorly due to a lack of blood supply. Even 15 minutes of physical activity a day is better than nothing, and it prolongs life. In general, the WHO recommendation is 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week or 75 minutes of intense exercise.
Sometimes walking and jogging outside during quarantine is not a choice. Technology has opened up many options for alternatives in the home. You can download an app, sign up for an online course, or follow the streams of professional trainers, coaches, artists and so much more on social media. While any physical activity is a great cure for body and soul, yoga and meditation could be a wonderful option for all ages these days. Combined with mindfulness practices, they will help you prevent depression, boost immunity, resist stress, and develop healthy habits.
In conclusion, I would like to bring in the important concept of kindness, it truly matters when it comes to combat loneliness.
Consciousness, awareness, compassion, and kindness can help to heal the effects of loneliness and isolation. These beautiful human qualities do keep us all grounded and connected in a way that can offer healing.
How are you reaching out to make a small difference in someone’s life today?
Kind mindfulness, in a shame-free,non-judgemental space is one of Nourishment Vitality’s founding teaching principles.
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