covid-19: loneliness a ‘bigger health risk than smoking or obesity’

covid-19: loneliness a 'bigger health risk than smoking or obesity'

there is a massive stigma about loneliness and it can be really confusing and hard to shift this feeling. you can be in a crowd of people and feel lonely. you can have a busy family life and feel lonely. you can feel like you don’t belong and feel lonely. there are hundred of reasons why people feel lonely. what you feel is what you feel and try not to over analyse and get upset about justifying it.

covid-19 either compounded this feeling of loneliness or created a new feeling of loneliness – and that is what it is is a feeling. 

covid-19 physically isolated many of us for a long period of time away from our families, our friends, from our work colleagues and swept away our daily rhythm of life.

a lot of people found their daily in-person interactions were limited to the few people they lived with and a lot of us found our social interactions were made through digital technology. 

you might be someone who found that you normally were ok about spending lots of time alone and then because of a forced social decision that we had to stay at home and that freedom was taken away from us, what surfaced was a need to be social, to be seen and to be heard. 

one of the reasons loneliness is so bad for us is because it makes it harder for us to control our habits and behaviour. tests by the US psychologists Roy Baumeister and Jean Twenge in 2001 showed that the expectation of isolation reduces our willpower and perseverance, and makes it harder to regulate our behaviour: lonely middle-aged adults drink more alcohol, have unhealthier diets and take less exercise than the socially contented. drug abuse and bulimia nervosa are linked to loneliness. there are different reasons why lonely people find it hard to keep positive and adopt unhealthy habits but low self-esteem and a wish escape the feeling of loneliness can be factors.

it is important for us to realise that these negative thoughts/patterns and the amount of attention that we give to them cause them to grow in intensity. the brilliant thing though is that this process is reversible and we can change our beliefs by challenging them. if we interrupt the negative self-talk, start being kinder with our thinking and distracting ourselves, our thoughts, feelings and beliefs will also change over time and we become healthier. after a while you’ve turned life around. that’s the process and anyone can do it and you can start right now.

being human we are hardwired to connect – connection does matter. again this is individual to everyone and it takes time and kindness to ourselves to establish connection. a result of connection is we are happier and more resilient and life tends to get better.

social skills are like muscles and they strengthen the more we use them and weaken when we use them less. part of the reason for our social unease is triggered subconsciously by the brain and autonomic nervous system. the amygdala, a part of the brain, is constantly monitoring the environment we are in, assessing if someone or something may be a threat and sending signals throughout the body accordingly. (think “fight, flight, or freeze.”) having a pet, roommate, or family member occasionally crossing our path in lock down and our interactions limited to social media and an occasional facetime conversation, our brain has grown accustomed to a much different set of stimuli than having activity all around us to keep us busy and out of our own negative thinking.

at iamlovingkindnessnetwork our daily virtual sessions are designed to give everyone the space to be seen and for members to hear motivating and uplifting content in a safe and loving virtual environment. instead of being locked into the cycle of  disproportionate negative thinking we can lift our selves into the positive and really effortlessly from the comfort from our homes reap the amazing benefits of having positive stimuli and connection on a daily basis.

 

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