Naturally, everyone feels lonely at one time or another. It may seem harmless, but loneliness and isolation are part of a fast-growing epidemic in this country. At any one time, 60 million Americans report feeling alone. It’s an invisible discomfort that can lead to physical disease. New research suggests that social isolation creates so much stress and strain that it might be a bigger threat to your whole health than obesity.
Necessities To Survive
This shouldn’t be surprising. Abraham Maslow, MD, PhD, ranked belonging as the most important necessity to our survival after food, water, shelter and our immediate safety was taken care of. Relationships, or the belonging component of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, is also the most difficult imperative that most of us experience as human beings.
Unhealthy Trade Off
Being in relationships that feel bad is unhealthy and unhappy – and not being in relationships with others can also feel bad, unhealthy and unhappy. This is why many individuals, especially females, will remain in unhealthy situations even though they do not want to continue in a dysfunctional relationship.
The effects of depression is one topic often discussed in the whole health patient advocacy program. In numerous studies, loneliness (especially in the elderly) has been shown to have a significant impact on an individual’s health and well-being in addition to their feeling of being valued or loved. Depression is a real problem for those experiencing loneliness. Depression has an immediate impact on an individual’s health and ability to function.
Relationships with pets has increased dramatically over the last 10 years in the U.S. Pets can eliminate the sense of being “alone” or lonely and have proven to have healing effects on individuals of all ages and all stages of illness.
Even our relationships with plants can help us to feel less alone and caring for them provides a sense of purposeful work and fulfillment.
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For a free download of the bestselling, award-winning book Changing Behavior, visit changingbehavior.org.