Loneliness and its Effect on the Body

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There’s a lyric from a 90s rock band that goes, “If you think that I don’t know about depression and emotional pain, you’re insane – or you’re a fool who hasn’t paid attention to a word that I say.” Sounds about right. Everyone experiences undesirable emotions from time-to-time, but what happens when you consistently feel alone?

We all have basic needs for belonging and recognition. When those needs are not met, we experience pain. Over time, this pain is exacerbated and can lead to depression— or even suicidal thoughts depending on the severity. In case more evidence is needed for the mind/body connection, according to the American Psychology Association, a persistent feeling of loneliness can manifest itself into negative physical symptoms.

Surprisingly, feelings of loneliness changes the body significantly: there is an increase in blood pressure and stress hormone levels, sleep quality declines, the heart muscle is overworked, and blood vessels are more easily damaged. If this wasn’t bad enough, studies have found that those who are lonely respond less favorably to flu shots. Loneliness is also a known factor in sparking substance abuse problems and dependency. The good thing is, there are plenty of ways to rid of the lonely feeling.

Taking social wellness into consideration as one of the 7 Dimensions of Wellness, we know it’s important to counteract these feelings as soon as possible. The Counseling Center is always a fantastic emotional resource for students, as are the ever-faithful Wellness Ambassadors/peer educators. Gaining new friends, especially with those you can relate to, is by far the best cure for loneliness. Here are a few of the many ways to increase your circle of friends:

  1. Join a club or organization on campus.
  2. Sign up for an intramural or club sport.
  3. Join a fraternity or sorority.
  4. Attend campus events (for example, check out Unplugged – it’s an open-mic event regularly hosted by UPB).
  5. Visit common areas (such as the Russell Union Rotunda).
  6. Organize a study group with fellow classmates.

Adequate and positive social networks assist in providing individuals with a barrier from everyday stressors, thus lessening the blows life can throw. Take the time to listen to your needs and find new and exciting friendships with those who make you happy. Get out there with your chin up and be social. No one deserves to feel the pain of loneliness.

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