How can you help a loved one suffering from loneliness? – Harvard Health Blog

You worry about your mother. Before the pandemic, you visited her every week with your young children. They loved playing in his garden and eating homemade cookies together. You took your mother to medical appointments and on small excursions. However, due to his chronic lung disease, you made the difficult decision in March not to continue with in-person family visits. You call her every day, but she seems more and more sad and worried. What can you do?

What is loneliness and how does it affect health?

Loneliness is a subjective mental state of feeling disconnected from others. It’s different from social isolation – you can be alone even when surrounded by people you care about. Loneliness can be triggered by memories of losing someone, by feelings of misunderstanding others, by emotionally unfulfilling relationships, or by having less access to relationships due to changing circumstances. life. According to studies, loneliness is one of the biggest health problems people face: it is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, it seems to be worse for your health than obesity and it can increase your risk of death. by 29%.

Loneliness and suicide

It doesn’t seem surprising that reports of loneliness and suicide have increased dramatically in recent years. According to a recent survey, more than three in five Americans now consider themselves alone. Federal government data shows suicide rates increased by more than a third from 1999 to 2018. Although studies have not determined whether loneliness causes suicidality, they have shown an association between loneliness and suicidal thoughts and behaviors that are independent of depression. Alarmingly, arms sales in the United States have skyrocketed since March 2020. With lockdowns and home stay orders increasing social isolation, decreasing loneliness should be a public health priority. If left untreated, loneliness can contribute to a gun-related suicidal crisis.

Tips for overcoming loneliness

So what can you do to avoid loneliness and help a loved one? Although we don’t have enough data to identify the most effective solitude interventions, the following principles can guide you and your loved ones and should be used on a daily basis:

  • Connect meaningfully with family and friends. While technology can help make connections, it’s flawed: social media, for example, has actually been associated with growing loneliness. Connect the way that works best for you: whether it’s over the phone, video chat, via a mobile app, or even chatting with your neighbors across the fence or in a park.
  • Be grateful. Loneliness can cause people to focus on themselves and their struggles. Try to express your appreciation to your friends, family and strangers.
  • Focus on what you can change. Spending time dwelling on your current situation can perpetuate loneliness; instead, focus your attention on something that is under your control and work on it.
  • Enjoy being busy. Complete a chore, spend time writing, find a new hobby, or just let yourself be immersed in a new activity. Let your creativity shine!
  • Remove the negativity. Surround yourself with people and activities that give you joy. Consider taking a break from the news, or at least limiting your consumption.
  • Data suggests that just smiling can make you feel better.
  • Be kind, understanding, and patient. Work on treating yourself and others with compassion. Engaging in enjoyable interactions can also help those around you and can lead to deeper connections.
  • Develop a routine that provides balance and familiarity. Create a daily schedule that includes physical activity, time to connect with loved ones, a project or hobby, and relaxing fun.

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Jothi Venkat

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