Even though today’s world seems to be getting smaller as everything becomes digitalized, loneliness seems to be getting worse. This was already causing adverse effects in our society, but out of nowhere in 2020 came the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. We were all excited to begin a new decade, or end an old one (depending on which school of thought you belong to), but little did we know there was a deadly virus lurking in the shadows and heading our way, and eventually all across the globe.
The virus led to a pandemic that has already claimed thousands of human lives and still counting. Unfortunately, the ways to prevent its spread center around social distancing and quarantining. This has further exaggerated the epidemic of loneliness we were already experiencing before the pandemic began.
So connected, yet so lonely
Everyone owns a smartphone and can text, call, or FaceTime whenever they wish. They can send instant messages on many platforms—Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and so on. We can now watch our friends and followers give talks on live videos, and we can comment in real-time. With a click of a button, we can view our friends, followers, celebrities, politicians, and we see and hear what everyone is up to. Some stories are positive and uplifting; some are sad, personal stories. Some are people just telling us about their daily routines, whether we care to know or not. On another hand, Zoom video conferencing has taken over the world in our new normal with social distancing measures. This platform is now being used for every face to face meeting from business conferences to even weddings. I got married on zoom in April, and it was a beautiful and memorable ceremony!
Despite all this interconnectedness, which should make us feel like we are part of all these people’s lives, we, as a people, are feeling lonelier than ever, according to recent studies. To make matters worse, the fears around contracting this deadly virus makes us even more anxious and lonely. Loneliness epidemic how to cure depression.
The Daily Express reports that “Loneliness is as big a killer as obesity and as dangerous as heavy smoking.” Besides that, researchers have pooled the results of previous studies, estimating that loneliness can increase the risk of premature death by around 30 percent. This study was conducted by Brigham Young University in the US in 2017.
Loneliness has also been linked to poor mental health. In a survey by the Mental Health Foundation, more than a third of people surveyed had felt depressed as a result of being lonely. All these mechanisms eventually lead to loneliness, which also can cause inflammation throughout the body and reduce immune function, which leads to many chronic problems. Loneliness epidemic how to cure depression.
These changes began with the growth of the internet and advancing technology. As of 2018, loneliness in America had tripled since 1985, around the time home computers became common. The numbers may well be worse now considering the isolation and anxiety this ongoing pandemic has caused. Advanced technology, it has been said, contributes to increasing loneliness and increasing premature death.
So what can you do to overcome loneliness during this pandemic period and beyond?
Here are 3 ways to conquer loneliness in today’s world…
#1. Reach out to family and friends
We must start to reach out to family and friends beyond social media. Social media is a huge problem. We now all feel the more followers we have, the cooler we are. This gives us a false sense of security and importance. Whereas, we don’t even ever get to meet or see 99 percent of these followers or cyberspace friends. Quantity now seems to be more important than quality. Authentic friendships have reduced drastically with the growth of social media. As a result, people are feeling lonelier than ever because they don’t feel they have trusted or authentic friends to reach out to when they need them. Loneliness epidemic how to cure depression.
Social media and the internet have also led us to compare our lives a lot more to others. So many post all the super-happy and mountaintop events in their lives, and not the lows. All the photoshopped pictures, and “perfect” bodies we see online, make us feel we are not good enough, and make us isolate ourselves even more.
There are two fashion pages I used to follow on Instagram, and it baffles me how they can even get away with this—all the pictures they post of women have not only very skinny women, but they all have extremely long thin legs. The pictures are so obviously photoshopped and edited that there’s no way no one should not notice that fact.
I have since unfollowed those pages and will no longer follow sites where there are anorexic-looking models, or pictures photoshopped to make women look extremely thin. However, the problem is, our young girls are seeing posts like these and feel they are not good enough, not skinny enough, etc. I see and hear this every day as a mom and as a pediatrician. These feelings lead to unworthiness, isolation, and depression, which eventually lead to a host of other diseases, like eating disorders, heart conditions, etc.
The solution? Unfollow pages that make you feel less and do not believe everything you see on social media. If it looks too good to be true, it’s most likely too good to be true. Spend less time online and stay connected to friends and family in real life instead. You’ll feel less lonely this way. Loneliness how to cure.
#2. Video-based calls are the new face-to-face interactions
Face-to-face interactions are still the best way to interact with people as these are more meaningful and promote interactions in a more authentic way. But with the ongoing pandemic, face-to-face interactions are not possible so the next best thing is video calls. Especially if you live alone, consider staying in touch with your friends and family through video calls so that you can take in their emotions and energy as you speak.
#3. Get out more!
The internet has also reduced the amount of time we spend outdoors and so has the pandemic. It’s now considered much more fun to stay in our homes and be entertained and fully engrossed by our devices. The interest in getting outside for a simple walk has reduced. All the benefits of nature have been swapped for the time in cyberspace.
Study after study has shown a direct correlation between spending time outdoors and being happier. The Harvard health letter, July 2010 issue, clearly states this. Being outdoors reduces our stress levels, elevates our moods, and makes us more active and thus healthier. We also get the benefit of vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D reduces inflammation; increases our immune function; and reduces heart disease and osteoporosis, as well as depression—among many other benefits.
When outside, remember to observe all the social distancing guidelines in public; wear your face mask, stay 6 feet away, and wash your hands frequently.
Well, obviously smartphones, the internet, and social media are not going anywhere anytime soon, so we have to readjust our lives with the new norm if we want to reduce this loneliness epidemic. Loneliness epidemic how to cure depression.
I recommend we get outside more; consciously put our phones away more often, especially in the presence of company including our partners and children; and schedule a short time during the day to be on social media, and stick to it.
Reading books is also another way to combat loneliness. Reading takes us on journeys far and wide in our minds, that we could not otherwise experience in person. As travel has now become relatively unsafe due to the pandemic, reading a wide variety of books is another form of mind travel we can embark upon and enjoy.
Understand that people will likely post positive events in their lives on social media, and it doesn’t mean your life sucks because you’re not happy all the time. The onus is on you to actively overcome the loneliness you feel. Loneliness how to cure.
If you are feeling very lonely, sad, and depressed, please contact your primary care physician immediately for a consultation. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Hotline immediately.
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Dr. Iyabo, a board-certified Pediatrician, passionate writer, speaker and lifestyle blogger, motivates and inspires thousands of women daily to live their best lives. She empowers others by simply living her own best life, and attaining financial independence as a successful physician entrepreneur. Living a life of purpose and fulfillment is her mission and hope for all women. ––At Style Rave, we aim to inspire our readers by providing engaging content to not just entertain but to inform and empower you as you ASPIRE to become more stylish, live smarter and be healthier. Follow us on Instagram @StyleRave_ ♥