Loneliness, connectivity and protection
At this exceptionally unusual time of coronavirus, there are a lot of negatives that we can focus on, however there have also been a number of positive shifts occurring as well that we should feel gratitude for. One that I have recognised is the increased sense of community, increased connection and engagement with friends, family and our neighbours.
The staggering number of volunteers that have applied to support the healthcare system, even if just to call those who are lonelier and more vulnerable is extraordinary.
In this article I want to explore how loneliness affects our health, as well as some tips to help prevent loneliness at this time.
I also want to offer a discussion with my colleague and Mindfulness Therapist David Behrens. David also explores the inner loneliness that we might experience and the importance to making friends with ourselves, so that we do not feel so lonely when we spend time with ourselves. David also offers a gratitude practice that you may want to consider implementing into your daily routine.
We hope that you enjoyed this video, below I provide a further expansion on some of the areas that I was discussing.
At any given time, 20-40% of adults report feeling lonely. Loneliness predicts depressive symptoms, impaired sleep, reduced physical activity and impaired cognitive health. There are also a number of scientifically proven areas in which reducing loneliness and social isolation can support our health:
- Associated with lower levels of inflammation
- Can support immune function and response to challenges
- Can help to manage stress response
- Can help to support cardiovascular health
- Can improve physical and mental health
From the perspective of coronavirus, social connectedness can help to support the immune system at a time where it is most likely to be challenged. Anything we can do to naturally support our immune systems and manage our inflammatory response to infection is beneficial, especially now.
I really hope this is not something that we consider only at this time of crisis, but something that we consider when this virus eventually passes, and we return to “normal.” Social isolation and loneliness increase mortality risk and its effects are as comparable to obesity, something that public health takes very seriously. We need to take our social relationships more seriously as well as our relationships to ourselves as well.
Things we can do during lockdown to help with loneliness
- Skype / Facetime / Zoom / House Party – All are excellent ways of connecting with our friends and family.
- Reach out to your local community, set up street WhatsApp groups to stay engaged with your neighbours and to help support those who are more vulnerable.
- Volunteer to support the NHS by helping to call the vulnerable.
- Join online exercise group classes.
- Work inwardly to help with loneliness – Create a routine of daily gratitude practice. At the start of the day or end of the day, whichever seems most suitable to you.
- Create structure and purpose to your day – Plan in exercise / movement, meals, socialising etc – Create meaning to your day at this time.
Take care of yourself and those around you. Reach out to people and stay social. Work on inner loneliness by making friends with yourself, you can do this in part by expressing gratitude.
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