Updated: Aug 22
If you have read or watched the news this week, then you may have noticed something about loneliness reaching the headlines. On Tuesday, the US Surgeon General issued an 81-page report highlighting the dangers of loneliness. It is described as posing "health risks as deadly as smoking up to 15 cigarettes daily" according to this Associate Press article.
Given how much we know about the dangers of smoking, that's a pretty serious statement. I think it's time to talk about this issue and what you can do if you are feeling its effects.
Are You Feeling Lonely?
If you are feeling lonely, you are not alone. According to the previously mentioned surgeon general report, about half of Americans report feeling the same way. Some signs to look for that indicate it might be a problem:
You tend to blow little things out of proportion
You are having trouble getting a good night's sleep
More of your friends are on social media than in real life (social media is actually linked to increased loneliness)
You have an unusually strong attachment to inanimate objects
Your immune system isn't as effective as it normally is
What Can You Do About Loneliness?
Luckily, you do not have to suffer alone. There are countless resources available to help you cope with how you feel and to get you engaged with others.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers several resources to help you get support immediately and in the long term. Contact the SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP to get a referral to a qualified professional in your area.
The UK-based Mental Health Foundation offers 15 tips for what to do if you are feeling lonely. They can help you regain control of your life and reaffirm your worthiness as an individual.
Insurance provider Cigna Healthcare also offers some insight into effective strategies for conquering loneliness. Suggestions include volunteering, joining a club, and practicing self care. Why not give it a try and join your local senior or community center?
Make Time for Real Connections
Having lots of friends on social media is great — until it isn't. If this is your primary way of connecting with others, it's time to establish some more direct lines of contact.
The same thing can be said for virtual exercise classes. I always welcome anyone into my classes. I know they serve a vital purpose for seniors who otherwise would not get the exercise and encouragement. However, I am also available by phone, email, and text as needed.
It is not unusual for a student to send me a message about what's been going on or why they feel distracted. These connections are what make our group classes so much more meaningful.
If you are looking for a connection but are unable to attend outside activities, contact me for class information and a registration form. I accept Silver Sneakers for payment, but you do not have to be a Silver Sneakers member to attend. Everyone is welcome with no obligation to pay!