While doing research for my upcoming book, I’ve come across several shocking facts about loneliness. So I guess consider this my public service announcement, dating-style.
It’s fairly common knowledge that your emotional and mental health can have a strong impact on your physical health. If you have a good attitude, your health can improve. If your brain is under negative stress (i.e. in a state of loneliness), you can do drastic damage to your physical well-being.
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People underestimate the stressful mental burden that loneliness can bring. It can lead to severe anxiety and depression. Companionship is a basic human instinct and researchers have been studying its surprisingly extreme consequences for years. Researcher John Cacioppo has discovered that the instinctual impulse that humans have for connection is as strong and urgent as hunger, pain, or thirst. In his book, The Nature of Loneliness, Cacioppo says that loneliness functions as a sort of survival impulse that triggers us to seek companionship. Furthermore, loneliness can develop into a chronic condition, one that he estimates affects as much as 20% of the population.
Even Mice Get Lonely
Your body reacts to your mind in tangible ways that can make or break your physical well-being. Here’s an example: no matter what species you’re talking about—mice, rabbits, pigs, humans, you name it—all animals who are in isolation (lonely) die earlier than animals who aren’t. Cacioppo and other researchers have been able to identify a number of changes in the immune, nervous, and cardiovascular systems of patients suffering from chronic loneliness, which could explain why people who live alone tend to have a shorter life and are more likely to develop severe health problems. In short, being lonely can be dangerously unhealthy.
People who are lonely are more likely to have higher blood pressure and sustain increased cortisol, a hormone that gets released when you are under stress. Even sleep is less restful because studies show that lonely people suffer from tiny, subconscious awakenings during the night. You might not realize that you’re stressed, but your body knows it.
Let Your Mind Heal Your Body
The secret silver-lining to all of this, though, is that you are in charge of your own loneliness. Researchers have determined that it’s not a high number of friends or the presence of a significant other that prevents someone from being lonely. Many people with an expansive social network of significant people in their lives still feel lonely every day because they perceive a lack of connection to other people. If you perceive that you don’t have any meaningful connections in your life (even if you have supportive friends, family, or a romantic relationship), you could potentially suffer from physically and mentally damaging loneliness.
But Back to the Silver Lining...
If you work to form relationships (romantic or otherwise) that fulfill you, you can change your perception and stave away the dangerous physical and emotional repercussions of loneliness. So, don’t let anything stop you! Get motivated to find a significant other and forge a loving, healthy relationship. Don’t fall victim to the lethal effects of loneliness. If you feel lonely, do whatever you can to stop the cycle. Take steps to erase your loneliness and improve your life. Trust me, it’s way more fun over here.
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