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What You Need to Know About Loneliness

Sitting is the new smoking.

Grandma hugging granddaughterYou’ve heard the phrase, right?

Most of us still sit for more hours than we should, but we’re beginning to shift our mindset to focus towards what we need to do to be healthy. This shift in public and personal perspective comes as science reveals new information about the way modern lifestyles are affecting our health, and our lifespans.

But this article isn’t about sitting — it’s about loneliness. Like being too sedentary, loneliness is a widespread health risk with serious impacts. Research shows that loneliness has significant negative effects on human health, and, in predicting premature death, it’s more dangerous than obesity.

What is loneliness, exactly?

Loneliness is the internal experience of social disconnection. While it seems intangible, it affects the same parts of the brain as physical pain. Social psychologists widely consider American in a loneliness epidemic.

There are many ways to measure interpersonal bonding, and its opposite, loneliness. Loneliness can take many shapes. It can be exacerbated by:

  • Longing for a particular bond (i.e. that of a close friend, a romantic partner, or an animal connection)
  • Feeling tied to technology but distracted or distant from face-to-face reality
  • Being surrounded by friendly people who can’t or won’t invest enough emotionally to become truly close.

If you are living with loneliness, you don’t have to continue suffering. Consider what situations or sensations, like those above, cause you to feel most alone. Reach out for help (remember, you can call us at (716) 831-1800 and use your insight as a starting point).

When it comes to social connection, quality wins.

One reflection of social connectedness is the number of intimate confidants a person feels they have. Deep social bonds are now considered a better indicator of social support than the sheer number of people in a person’s network. The need to feel significant connection to other human beings is hardwired into our brain (after all, it helped our species survive!).

New social media platforms emerge every year. They keep us connected in important ways, but they can’t replace our intrinsic need for in-person time. The dynamic, impromptu, and sometimes vulnerable experiences we share with people whose company we enjoy is crucial to our mental, emotional, and — you guessed it — physical well-being.

When it comes to social connections, quality truly is more important than quantity.

Not sure where to start?

Here’s 10 tips to challenge loneliness and start deepening your social connections written by Ross Rosenberg: a psychotherapist and author who uses his longtime personal experiences with loneliness as a source of insight.

More of a visual learner?

Check out this infographic about the science and power of connection.