Finding ways to connect with other people to improve your mental health
It's easy to feel alone. Many people struggle to build meaningful connections with other people, and the global pandemic has not made this struggle any easier. COVID-19 has caused an increase in social isolation and feelings of loneliness. Many are cautious to venture out and meet new people due to concerns about COVID-19.
This is understandable. Each person needs to weigh risks and act in a way that promotes safety and overall well-being. This assessment includes being aware of the damages to our mental and physical health when we are isolated.
The health risks of loneliness and isolation
Social isolation and loneliness can occur at the same time, but they are two different things. The CDC offers the following definition:
Loneliness is the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact. Social isolation is a lack of social connections. Social isolation can lead to loneliness in some people, while others can feel lonely without being socially isolated.
In other words, you can find someone who is lonely but not isolated. And you could find someone who is isolated but not lonely.
Nevertheless, there are physical, mental, and emotional risks associated with isolation and loneliness. For example, loneliness or social isolation has been associated with increased risks for heart disease, stroke, and premature death. Loneliness is also associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide (CDC, 2021).
In addition, the National Institute of Health notes that people who are lonely can experience emotional pain. This pain may cause them to feel threatened and become mistrusting of other people. They are also at risk to develop chronic inflammation, which reduces the body's immune response (NIH, 2021).
Anyone can experience loneliness or isolation, but some groups of individuals are more at risk than others. People are more at risk for feeling lonely and experiencing isolation if they