We are socially wired to connect. In fact, when we experience our feelings being hurt or worse yet, rejection, the emotional pain we feel is just as dramatic as say, the physical pain of a broken leg. The pathways that register physical pain register social/emotional pain in the same way.
Dr. John Cacioppo, PhD, a Professor of Neuroscience and director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, and a leading researcher on the effects on loneliness and human health, states the “physical effects of loneliness and social isolation are as real as any other physical detriment to the body — such as thirst, hunger, or pain.” And a 2019 Cigna study found that “61% of Americans over 18 are lonely,” and suggests that we have a loneliness epidemic.
Now wait a minute. We have a Covid-19 epidemic and a loneliness epidemic? Not only that, we’re experiencing a social recession equal to the economic recession. So, if you’re feeling especially cranky or worse yet, despondent and going toward hopeless, it’s time to break down some barriers and do what you can to reach out, make connections and get through this mandated isolation period.
Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, stresses the physiological and psychological effects of prolonged loneliness and isolation. “People who are more socially connected show less inflammation, conversely people who are more isolated and lonely show increased chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been implicated in a variety of chronic diseases,” often exacerbated by the stress-compromised immune systems, high blood pressure and heart problems and even cellular aging.
The fact is our well-being is dependent on social connection. Thankfully, we have a wider range of communication capabilities than ever before and it’s time we use them. Tech isn’t a perfect substitute but it goes a long way to avert loneliness. Just remember, outside of a face to face visit which is the most comforting of connections, next is face-to-face, one on one online and telephone calls, followed by texts with email being the last in the link of best methods for connection.
It’s with all this in mind, and my own longing to connect, that I’m announcing, Human Connection Fridays, an informal, virtual get-together that I’m hosting each Friday afternoon from 12-12:45p CST free of charge. This is a casual get together where the only prerequisite is that you be totally yourself. We’ll use interactive, positive exercises to demonstrate the power of connecting. Please join us; we’d love to have you! Sign up here and I’ll look forward to seeing you this Friday!