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What does loneliness mean to you? Well, the irony of being lonely is that we all feel it at least once in our lives. The worst part? You can feel lonely even when you’re with your family and friends. While loneliness might be a subjective emotion—one where you might be physically alone and in isolation or where you might find yourself unable to form bonds—it definitely has an effect on your mental health.
But have you ever wondered why you feel lonely to begin with? In a 2010 study, Dutch researcher Jenny de Jong-Gierveld pointed out that loneliness is a feeling you might experience due to lack of some relationships or even due to existing relationships that are no longer desirable to you.
Bit by bit, loneliness changes your life. For instance, you might find that your most intimate relationship is with your phone or that you have negative thoughts about yourself. You might stop enjoying your life, unable to find joy in things you once loved. Well, if you can relate to this, then you could be experiencing loneliness–irrespective of the friends and family around you.
That said, you are not alone. Loneliness is one of the most common problems faced by people the world over. If anything, the pandemic and its lockdowns only made it worse. But before we discuss and debate any further, let’s talk about why this emotion is horrible for your mental health.
There is no denying that loneliness is a complex emotion. As hard as it is to understand, its effects on your mental health are out in the open for everyone to see. According to research, loneliness can pave the way for depression, lead to low immunity and poor heart health, and even tamper with how long you live.
Here are a few other ways in which loneliness can impact your mental health:
If you’re waking up in the middle of your sleep, then loneliness could be to blame. Loneliness can make your sleep cycle irregular and leads to insomnia, which has negative ramifications on your mental health. The negative thoughts this emotion brings along can push you into overthinking mode, which can come in the way of a sleepful peace.
A letter from Harvard Health Publishing suggests that improper sleep can lead to a variety of mental health illnesses, amplify the effects of psychiatric disorders, and create problems when it comes to emotion regulation.
According to a 2018 paper published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, the feeling of self-disgust is often reported in people who feel lonely. Not to mention, loneliness can also trigger depression, thus adding to the cycle of pent-up feelings. And the altered self-image and low self-worth that this problem brings along can also contribute to your risk of depression.
When you feel lonely, you also tend to feel that there is nobody you can reach out to share your thoughts or discuss what’s bothering you. This creates a state of emotional distress or anguish, which adds to your stress levels. Not to mention, you could end up feeling hopeless and overwhelmed.
Loneliness can make you an overthinker, leading to unsavoury feelings like anxiousness, aggression, and irritability.
Well, the simple solution which might not sound as simple is to stay in touch with your friends and family. And while you’re at it, surround yourself with people and things that make you happy. Invest in yourself—take up a hobby, go for walks, spend time in nature, and try to get comfortable with the idea of spending time alone.
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