New studies show that saying hello can change your life. Okay, maybe not change your life. But definitely make you feel less alone in this cruel, sad and scary world.
As the token single cat lady of my group, I’m often asked how I deal with my neverending loneliness. I feel like my friends always picture me sobbing softly into my low sugar ice cream every night as I binge watch rom-coms on Netflix. Fortunately, that’s usually not the case. But every once in awhile, it does happen. I do feel lonely and it does suck.
For anyone who has experienced genuine bouts of loneliness, you already know how physically painful it can be. In a recent article in O Magazine, Dr. Sanjay Gupta shared his thoughts on the latest loneliness research. In it, he says that the effects of loneliness range from increased risk of dementia in older adults all the way to an increased mortality risk – even more fatal than air pollution, obesity and excessive alcohol use! In another interview, Gupta states that severe prolonged loneliness is as damaging as smoking cigarettes. Researchers found genes linked to inflammation in the body were over-expressed in lonely individuals, while genes used to activate antivirals were suppressed. The part of the brain used to express pain is activated more often in those suffering from chronic loneliness.
So, not only are you lonely, but you have more inflammation, get sick more often and feel physical pain. Talk about kicking someone while they are down. The good news is that it doesn’t take much to reverse the negative effects of loneliness. By taking initiative and doing something as small as greeting someone with a smile and asking how they are doing, you can start to improve your immune system. It’s that easy…or it’s a start, at least.
So with all that in mind, I think I may give up one of my morning workouts this week to meet up with a friend for coffee instead. If I’m feeling extra wild I may even call a friend one day after work to catch-up.
If any of them actually answer their phones, of course.