While it’s universally acknowledged that everyone feels lonely at one point or another, this emotion can be both complex and unique to each individual. Although there are many ways to improve loneliness on your own, making an appointment with reputable Montreal psychologists can also be a great way to help you deal with loneliness more effectively.

Loneliness Defined

A common definition of loneliness is that it is a state of solitude or being alone, but this interpretation is highly literal, and a little inaccurate for the intonations that come with the actual feeling of loneliness. Loneliness can also be better described as a state of mind which causes people to feel alone, and sometimes empty or unwanted. Lonely people often want human contact but because of their lonely state of mind, they find it difficult to connect with people.

Also, loneliness is not necessarily about being alone; a person who is in the company of friends can also be lonely. Even when you are surrounded by a lot of people, you can easily find yourself feeling lonely as a consequence of not finding the right kind of connection or communication that you need.

What Causes Loneliness?

John Cacioppo, pyschologist at the University of Chicago and co-author of the book, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, has emphasised that loneliness is strongly connected to genetics. Aside from that, there are also other contributing factors like situational variables such as divorce, physical isolation, and moving to a new place.

The death of a loved one, or someone special, can also lead to feelings of loneliness. Alongside these external occurrences, internal factors such as low self-esteem can also cause a person to be lonely, as people who think of themselves as unworthy of the attention of other people and those who lack self confidence can also lead to isolation and chronic loneliness. Loneliness can also be a symptom of a much bigger problem, or a psychological disorder such as depression.

Loneliness and its Consequences for Our Health

Since loneliness is such a negative feeling and state of mind, it can cause a wide range of negative effects on our physical and mental health. Some of these health risks include:

  • Depression, which can lead to suicide;
  • Cardiovascular disease and stroke;
  • Increased stress levels;
  • Decreased memory and slow learning;
  • Antisocial behaviour;
  • Poor or lack of decision making skills;
  • Alcoholism;
  • Drug abuse;
  • Progression of Alzheimer’s disease;
  • Altered brain function.

According to research, loneliness also has an impact on stress, immunity, and heart health. Adults who battle with loneliness also tend to consume more alcohol, get less exercise and engage in fewer physical activities than those who are not lonely.

Caciopo also said that lonely adults tend to eat food that are high in fat, sleep less efficiently, and experience daytime fatigue. Loneliness can also cause premature aging, due to the disruption of cellular processes in the body.

Treating and Preventing Loneliness

Loneliness can easily be overcome, especially if you are open to the idea of treating it and preventing it from happening in the future. Although it can be tempting to wallow in loneliness, the key lies in doing the direct opposite.

First, you must recognize that you feel lonely because something is not right in your life. Take loneliness as a sign that something must be changed, and that it is you who needs to initiate it. You also need to understand the effects of loneliness in your life, both in the physical and mental aspects. By being aware of the negative effects, it can become  a motivational force for getting beyond this state of mind.

Engage in activities that you enjoy. These activities can open up opportunities for you to meet new people, and develop new friendships and social interaction. Finally, focus on developing existing and new relationships with people that matter and share the same interests as you. Try to expect the best, and always focus on positive thoughts. By bringing yourself into this forward-thinking focus, your mind will steadily lose its default of negativity, allowing you to enjoy life in a much greater way.