Human connection is an energy exchange between people who are paying attention to one another. Connecting with others is more important than you think. Social connection can lower your anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy. It can also improve your immune system. By neglecting our need to connect, we put our health at risk.
4 Signs that You are Battling Loneliness:
You feel depressed.
You feel sad and do not think anyone would understand what you are going through. You self- isolate to resolve the feelings but they just don’t go away. You are not alone and counseling could help. As a therapist, I see many people who struggle with anxiety and depression. You are not alone.
You are sick all the time.
Are you always getting over a cold, only to get hit with another cold soon after? This may be because your stress levels are consistently high with no way to release the stress. Sometimes people feel alone in their problems with no one who could possibly understand. But let me assure you that as a Counselor I meet lots of different people. As humans, we are more alike than different. Through counseling, clients realize that they are not alone in their battles.
You are more centered on social media ‘friends’ than in person.
Although social media is here to stay, excessive interacting with social media friends rather than interacting with friends in person can lead to signs of loneliness. When you're feeling alone, you might spend more time posting on social networking sites. Instead, you can actually pick up the phone and arrange a lunch or dinner date with a friend or simply just be present and have a conversation. Not only does being present with someone in person impact the longevity of your relationship, but it also influences your happiness as well.
You have experienced weight gain.
Since weight gain is a common side effect of depression, it doesn't come as too much of a surprise that weight gain could also signify loneliness. We naturally turn to food to nurture and nourish ourselves. It is the most obvious way to fill ourselves up. However, when we are lonely, what we are actually craving is a little personal interaction, intimacy, love or friendship, someone to share our lives with. Loneliness can lead to eating much more often and unhealthier food as a way of comforting yourself. Instead, look to your relationships for that comfort.
What Can You Do About Loneliness?
Strengthen existing relationships.
You probably already have people in your life that you could get to know better or connections that could be deepened. Why not call friends more often, go out with them more, and find other ways to enjoy your existing relationships and strengthen bonds? If you're struggling to find the motivation to reach out to your friends or family, it might be helpful to start slowly. Come up with just one supportive friend or family member who you could imagine reaching out to. It's also reassuring to know that strong social support is beneficial for your mental health.
Adopt a pet.
Pets, especially dogs and cats, offer so many benefits, and preventing loneliness is one of them. Rescuing a pet combines the benefits of selflessness and companionship, and fights loneliness in several ways. It can connect you with other people. Walking a dog opens you up to a community of other dog-walkers, and a cute dog on a leash tends to be a people magnet. Additionally, pets provide unconditional love, which can be great comfort for loneliness.
When you're feeling lonely, be sure you're doing what you can to take care of yourself in other ways. Self-care is always a good idea, but especially when you are feeling down. Praying is an option. By reading the Bible, you can experience God’s for you. Eating nutritious food, exercising, and getting enough sleep will only make you feel better in the long run. Take a workout class or join a running club for exercise and social interaction. You can also join a group or organization that has a purpose for you.
See a counselor.
Loneliness and symptoms of depression can perpetuate each other, meaning the more lonely you are, the more depressed you feel, and vice versa. If just “getting out there” and meeting other people isn’t enough it may be a good idea to seek psychotherapy to help with feelings of loneliness, especially if you also feel other symptoms of depression. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you to change your thoughts as well as your actions. This can help you not only experience less loneliness but have more tools to prevent it. Whatever you do to combat loneliness, know that you are truly not alone, and there are many things you can do to feel more connected.
Julie Morvant, LPC-Associate
Julie uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Family Systems, and Solution-focused therapy in her sessions. She enjoys working with individuals, teenagers, couples and families. Christian counseling using scripture is available upon request.