How Can Feeling Lonely All the Time Impact Healthy Aging? (Video)
We all feel a little lonely at times. As a single woman, I often wish that I had someone to talk with and laugh with. Maybe it would be nice just to have someone to share my newly found cooking skills with.
Of course, I don’t dwell on these feelings. But, it’s clear to me that, whether we are married or single, feeling lonely from time to time is inevitable as we get a little older.
Even if we keep in touch with our families on Skype, we often miss the tactile contact of a good hug or the romantic feeling of a kiss. This is normal. It’s like having the occasional headache. We just “get over it.” Except when we don’t.
Feeling Lonely Doesn’t Have to Be Forever
The good news is that, while some feelings of loneliness may be inevitable, we actually have a lot of control over our social world. So, to get some suggestions, I turned to loneliness expert, Kory Floyd.
In our series of interviews, he shared his views on social isolation and loneliness after 60. More importantly, he offered some practical solutions for how to feel more socially connected at any age.
But, first, we need to understand the problem. Please take a few minutes to watch the interview. Some of Kory’s comments may surprise you.
Healthy Aging is Not Just About the Physical Ailments
In my conversation with Kory Floyd, who is an author and Professor of Communications at the University of Arizona, I got a different perspective on the emotional and psychological impacts of social isolation.
I learned how chronic loneliness can negatively influence every aspect of healthy aging. In our interview, we discussed the fact that our physical health is strongly connected to the strength of our social relationships.
When we feel chronically sad and alone, many other aspects of well-being come under attack. In fact, Kory’s own research shows that feeling psychologically vulnerable and socially disconnected has a strong connection to the development of life threatening illness.
Do You Know the Symptoms of Chronic Loneliness?
In our interview, we discuss the symptoms of chronic loneliness. In some ways, these symptoms “feel” a bit like the indicators for depression. Perhaps this is not surprising, since many of the triggers for loneliness and depression are similar.
While everyone feels lonely sometimes, loneliness and isolation have the potential to become dangerous when they become chronic. In other words, if you feel lonely for much of the time and your loneliness is impacting your ability to live a happy life, it’s probably time to get professional help.
Think for a few seconds about your own feelings of loneliness. How often do you turn down requests for a get together? Do you often feel like you are lacking in energy? Have you reached the point that your old passions no longer seem interesting? Do you feel worthless some of the time? Have you found that you have become more introspective and withdrawn as you have gotten a little older?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it’s time to take some positive steps to deal with your feelings.
How Can We Help Ourselves and Others to Overcome Feelings of Loneliness?
The good news is that loneliness does not have to be permanent. We just need to be gentle with ourselves and take a step-by-step approach to feeling better.
During our discussion, Kory’s suggestions aligned nicely with the recommendations that the women in our community gave each other in this article.
If you are feeling socially isolated or lonely, volunteering and mentoring are great places to start your road to recovery. Kory adds that exercise, dance, yoga and meditation can also be helpful. These activities are not so much an excuse to meet other people – although they can certainly help with this. Instead, these activities help us to reconnect with ourselves and build our confidence.
In our interview, Kory points out that many people do not always recognize the social opportunities around them. Instead, they have a tendency to think about affection in a narrow sense. For example, they think about wanting to be kissed or hugged. In reality, affection is a much broader concept. The small ways that we interact with others on a daily basis are just as important as the big gestures.
Every day provides countless opportunities to connect with others. Sometimes, we just need to pay attention. Did you notice the genuine smile that the barista gave you at your favorite coffee shop this morning? Do you notice when kids on the bus are curious about something you are wearing? Do you take advantage of opportunities to chat with people in the line at the supermarket? Maybe it’s time to treasure small random acts of kindness a little more. I hope that you enjoy the video. Please give it a watch. Then, join the conversation.
Do you ever feel a lonely? Have these feelings gotten easier or harder to deal with as you have gotten a little older? Please join the conversation.