Almost everyone feels lonely from time to time. In today’s “always on” society, it’s easy to feel alone, even when we are “connected” to hundreds of people online. This problem is especially serious for women over 60, who may be dealing with the loss of a job or other changing social circumstances.

Feeling lonely occasionally is normal, but, if your loneliness is starting to have an impact on your life, it may be time to take more aggressive steps. But, how can you tell the difference?

You Have More Facebook “Friends” than Real Friends

Many lonely people treat social media “friends” as substitutes for real-life interactions. If you are spending hours looking at pictures of friends on Facebook and not picking up the phone and calling them – you might unconsciously be feeling lonely.

You Are Gaining Weight

Have you packed on the pounds? Are you an “emotional eater?” Loneliness and weight gain are related, because we often compensate for our loneliness with food. Loneliness also tends to reduce our motivation to exercise or start any new project – it can have a paralyzing effect similar to depression.

If you are feeling confined to your house and cut off from friends and family, your mind might tell you that there’s no point in trying to make any changes. This is one way that loneliness can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure and cholesterol – loneliness tends to make people more sedentary, and contributes to bad dietary habits.

You Get Sick Often

John Cacioppo’s research suggests that loneliness can raise our stress hormone levels and make it harder for our bodies to recover from the daily wear and tear of life. Feeling alone and disconnected might actually hurt our immunity to diseases. People who are lonely are 50% more likely to die than people who are not lonely – this makes loneliness even deadlier than obesity.

For more signs of serious loneliness, please read my previous article on this topic.

If you are feeling any of these specific warning signs or just feel lonely – here are some resources to get help:

Mind’s guide on how to cope with loneliness

How to Deal with Loneliness on WikiHow

Psychology Today on loneliness

A Lonely Life Forum

Campaign to End Loneliness (U.K.)

Loneliness can be painful, but it doesn’t have to take over your life. Remember – you are not alone! Many people, especially people in their 50s and 60s, struggle with feelings of loneliness. Loneliness doesn’t mean you’re unworthy of love, it’s just a consequence of our modern society and technology and the way we live today.

When you think about it, the way we live today, with everyone in their own homes, watching television or staring at computer screens, living thousands of miles away from our children and grandchildren, is really quite unnatural and unprecedented in human history. No wonder so many people feel lonely!

If you are suffering from loneliness, please look for help. Reach out to friends and family, take up a new hobby and get out into the world. You are an amazing person and the world needs your unique perspective.

What do you do when you feel lonely? What advice would you give to a friend who is suffering from loneliness right now? Please add your thoughts in the comments section.

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