Do you know about loneliness?
Everyone feels lonely once in a while, but for some it becomes a persistent condition like a nagging hunger. Loneliness may cause with more serious psychological ills like depression, insomnia, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of dementia. Loneliness increases as you get older.
Loneliness stresses your body
When you are lonely, stressful things are more stressful. Calming things are less calming. It’s harder to regulate your emotions and you are more likely to feel rejected, criticized, and left-out than your less lonely peers.
It’s harder to keep your physiology in a healthy range – heart rate and blood pressure tend to increase sometimes to unsafe levels. Sleep and rest are less accessible. Appetite and digestion are less satisfying. You are hungry for something but it’s not food. You are tired but sleep isn’t working. You’re stressed but nothing seems to be happening. If this sounds familiar, you are probably all too familiar with loneliness.
Loneliness is contagious
But how does a person “catch” loneliness? John Cacioppo theorizes in his book loneliness that new data suggests loneliness is passed on through feelings of mistrust and negativity. “People who feel lonely view the social world as more threatening,” he says. “They may not be aware they are doing it, but lonely individuals think negatively about other people. So if you are my friend, and I started to treat you negatively, then over time, we would stop being friends. But in the meantime, our interactions caused you to treat other people less positively, so you’re likely to lose friends, and they in turn are likely to lose friends. That appears to be the means of transmission for loneliness.” People may be spreading their negative feelings simply by frowning or making other unpleasant facial expressions, making hurtful remarks, or adopting uninviting body postures.
The results were illuminating: If one person reported feeling lonely at one evaluation, his closest connections (either family or close friends) were 52% more likely to also report feeling lonely two years later. The effect was strongest among those in close relationships, waning as the connections became more distant, but remained significant up to three degrees of separation — in other words, one lonely person could influence whether his friend’s friend’s friend felt lonely. “Loneliness has been conceived in the past as depression, introversion, shyness or poor social skills,” says Cacioppo. “Those turn out not to be right. Research we and others have done suggests that it really is a fundamental human motivational state very much like hunger, thirst or pain.”
What do we need when we are lonely?
Loneliness signals that a person needs connection. We are wired for connection. Being listened to, feeling safe to be vulnerable and be seen for ourselves, decreases loneliness and increases connection. Being touched in ways we want and ask for, with consent and safety, decreases loneliness and increases connection. Knowing there is someone there for us who will reach back when we reach out, who will be there to connect and who’s presence feels good to us decreases loneliness and increases connection.
Working with me whether in phone coaching (being listened to and really known in your vulnerability, strength, fear, and vision) or embodied touch coaching (being held and feeling your nervous system relax and regulate while we coach about your life) decreases loneliness and increases connection. It feels good in the time you are with me. And it gives you the skills to go out and do it in your life. Through our time together you create a more connected life.
Many of my clients have had these and similar results. Would you like them for you?
- Better sleep, waking up feeling rested
- Decrease resting heart rate
- More patience with co-workers
- Improved love-life and dating after being single for 5+ years
- More satisfying relationships
- Decrease in self-criticism and increased satisfaction with their lives