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    Something to Think About ~ Good-Bye to Loneliness

a lonely woman wrapped in a blanket sitting on the shore looking at the sunset
Find a path out of loneliness and practice being extra patient with others and yourself.

Dear friend,

Loneliness is a discrepancy between desired and perceived social connection. While solitude, which is the chosen state of isolation from social connection, can increase concentration, creativity, and productivity, the feeling of loneliness can inflict serious damage on physical and emotional health.

Infants whose biological needs are met but who are then left alone with no one to talk to don’t survive. Children who aren’t talked to develop depression, delinquency, and learning disabilities. Adults who feel lonely have a higher risk of depression, addiction, suicide, weight gain, hypertension, impaired immunity, heart attack, stroke, and illness.

We are biologically designed to be nourished by connections. Just as hunger and thirst are protective albeit unpleasant feelings, the painful feeling of loneliness is a signal that alerts us to our physical and emotional vulnerability. Unfortunately, loneliness is widespread, with over 25 percent of people having no one in the world to confide in.

While loneliness is often related to a lack of meaningful people in one’s life, more commonly, loneliness happens to those with many social connections. When our mind is locked alone inside, we feel vulnerable and unavailable for deeper connections. In this state we feel as if we are facing the load of the world alone. This loneliness affects at least someone in almost every single family. Our current societal structure, dependence on and obsession with technology, and work style all foster greater loneliness.

While you cannot always choose your physical proximity with others, you completely control your psychological proximity with others. Never allow yourself to be lonely. Be in physical or psychological presence of someone you admire or adore. Do not spend an inordinate amount of time inside your head with a wandering mind. Instead, think about people who make you happy, people you could be grateful for. Think about those who inspire you. Surround yourself with their pictures; listen to their voices.

All of this is worthwhile. The rewards are not only lower loneliness but also lower stress, greater happiness, better health, and more resilience.

May you always be in the company (physical or psychological) of someone you admire or adore.

Take care.

Dr. Sood 2

Read previous blogposts and follow @AmitSoodMD on Twitter.

Dr. Sood is director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He also chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.