Why Loneliness Matters, And How To Overcome It

Michel GILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Michel GILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Loneliness is commonly defined as a state of solitude or being alone. It's a frame of mind that causes many people to feel alone, unwanted, and even empty inside. Loneliness can negatively impact physical health as well, with stress, depression, suicide, cardiovascular issues, decreased memory, altered brain function, and alcohol/drug abuse as common risks.

Dr. John Cacioppo, who researches aging, issued this statement about the toll loneliness can take on people. "Lonely adults consume more alcohol and get less exercise than those who are not lonely. Their diet is higher in fat, their sleep is less efficient, and they report more daytime fatigue. Loneliness also disrupts the regulation of cellular processes deep within the body, predisposing us to premature aging," he said.

The prevalence of loneliness has skyrocketed in recent years, with many experts blaming the rise of social media for the trend. Since 1985, the number of Americans who reported that they have no close friends has tripled. The good news is that you don't have to be Mr. or Ms. Popularity to stave off loneliness. Having just three or four close friends is enough for most people.

Here are some other tips to combat loneliness.

-- Don't underestimate the impact of loneliness. If you feel lonely, acknowledge that you need to make changes.

-- Work at developing quality relationships with people who share the same interests and values that you do. These relationships will be much more meaningful with shared ideals.

-- Community service is an excellent way to beat loneliness. It gives you the opportunity to meet people as well as the satisfaction that you feel when helping others. Community service also makes people feel needed.

-- Stay positive, and focus on optimistic thoughts and attitudes in your social relationships.