How Does Loneliness Effect Mind and Body?

How Does Loneliness Effect Mind and Body?

Are you feeling lonely at this moment in your life? Did you know that loneliness has many health effects? Let’s take a look at the research behind the causes and health effects associated with loneliness.

 

According to an article at usatoday30.usatoday.com, “Is it Hard for you to Connect with People?”

 

20079674_s“Jody Schoger felt utterly alone, “curled up like a turtle” in her hospital bed, where she was fighting a life-threatening infection after breast cancer surgery.

 

“I remember never even opening the blinds, just hibernating,” says Schoger, of The Woodlands, Texas. “I even started sleeping with the blankets pulled over my head. I was at the edge of the world.”

 

Like many people with serious illness, Schoger found herself cut off from family, friends and the “real” world outside the hospital, which began to feel like another planet. Although many people would have been happy to help, Schoger says, she never thought to call them. And though the hospital was filled with doctors, nurses and other patients, Schoger — facing her own mortality — felt very much alone.

 

As her story suggests, the pain of loneliness is caused less by being alone than by feeling alone, says John Cacioppo, director of the University of Chicago’s Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience.

 

Researchers are studying the causes and health effects of loneliness — both on the body and mind — in the hope of helping people and communities stay healthy and connected. Lonely people tend to have higher blood pressure and weaker immune systems, he says. Loneliness may even affect our genes. In lonely people, genes that promote inflammation are more active, while genes that reduce inflammation are less active, he says.

 

Innate desire for companionship

Considering how humans evolved, it makes sense that feeling alone gives people stress, Cacioppo says.

Humans evolved to depend on one another. Those who fail to connect with others are more likely to die without passing on their genes, Cacioppo says. In many ways, he says, the drive to avoid being alone is as strong as the need to alleviate hunger, thirst and pain.

 

The desire for companionship — and the fear of being ostracized — even motivates people to behave better, Cacioppo says.

 

“Loneliness is a biological process that contributes to being better social members of our species,” he says. “Think about what happens when you give a toddler a timeout. You basically make them feel lonely. Then they come back and are more likely to share, to be generous, and to take the perspective of the other.”

 

Scientists don’t really know the effects, however, of longer periods of enforced isolation, such as solitary confinement, says Cacioppo, who is interviewed in a new National Geographic Channel Explorer episode that premieres Sunday. ” To read the entire article click here.

 

Is loneliness taking over your life? Looking for a way to live a more meaningful life you desire? I will guide you to discover the best of you and the life you desire. To schedule a free consultation contact me at 503-207-5490 or visit joanhamiltonlifecoach.com.

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