Loneliness and it's antidote

uman beings are far more inter-twined and interdependent---physically as well as psychologically. Prolonged loneliness can be as harmful to our health as smoking or obesity. The therapeutic power of social connections and their effect should be available to everyone.

For our primitive ancestors ,survival depended on greater commitment to and from one another. The pain of loneliness can engender a powerful fear response and a persistent sense of rejection or isolation that can impair the DNA transcription in our immune system. This disruption also impairs thinking, will power and perseverance. It also limits our ability to regulate our emotions.

An African proverb states: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. There is a difference between being alone and lonely. Once we are born alone we die alone. But what about all the years in between ? Can we ever resolve the inner feeling of being alone ? Jogging or shopping won’t do it; eating won’t do it; random sex doesn’t make it go away. Each animal is equipped with disposition to avoid isolation and to maintain it’s proximity to it’s ilk. Among our fellow mammals , we see social connections that are familiar----wolves teaming up to coordinate the hunt; fierce carnivores bringing back meat for packmates who are disabled or who are nursing pups.

In humans loneliness itself has been shown to predict the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. We all decline physically sooner or later, but loneliness can increase the angle of downward slope. Lonely people try to be more hostile. They tend to eat foods that have higher contents of sugar and fat. The lonely have greater resistance to blood flow in their veins, which can lead to high blood pressure. Saliva tests reveal that lonely people produce more cortisol, a stress hormone, over sustained periods. According to a study by the American Cancer Society , the stress associated with marital separation and subsequent loneliness , may ultimately compromise on an individual’s immune system and lead to a greater susceptibility to cancer. The physiological and psychological costs of chronic loneliness can be devastating, opine researchers in Netherlands, China and Chicago.

Antidotes can be serialized as under:

A. Cure for Loneliness: Loneliness itself is not a disease; feeling lonely from time to time is like feeling hungry or thirsty from time to time.. It is part of being human. Loneliness like thirst , is the prompt that reminds us how much we depend on one another. Early humans were more likely to survive when they stuck together.

E. For Extend Yourself: Positive sensations can come from positive social interaction. Begin by reaching out in simple exchanges at the grocery store or at the library. Just say, “Isn’t it a beautiful day”? Or “ I loved that book/magazine”, as a social signal to somebody near you.

S. For Selection: The solution to loneliness is not quantity but quality of relationship. How you should go about trying to meet people, depends on what kind of people you want to meet. Search for birds of your own feather.

E. For Expect the Best:
Social contentment can make us more optimistic, generous and that “ expect the best “ attitude helps us to project the best. Fear and frustration can push us back into the critical and demanding behavior associated with loneliness. ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’ has another apt saying: “ The road to recovery is always under construction”. The same is true for healthy social connections. Loneliness can make us behave passively and withdrawn. Take someones hand and give him/her a hug.

Human connections, mental health, physiological health and emotional well-being are all inextricably linked. Oxytocin is the master chemical arising from the pituitary gland. This hormone is the master chemical of social connection, such as hugs and kisses and other social bindings. Oxytoxin is released when your spouse takes your hand as the plane lands down the runway.This may reduce the stress, increase tolerance for pain and reduce distractibility. A good meal with withgood friends is the best of both worlds, when it comes to relieving stress. We may overeat when lonely, because the feeling of isolation has impaired the executive control. In a similar vein moderate amounts of alcohol increase the concentration of oxytoxin in the blood, contributing to the convenience of social drinking.

How you can make the lonely person feel safe: If you are dealing with a family member or an intimate partner, try to demonstrate that your love is rock solid . Perfect friendships are impossible, but by reaching beyond ourselves, we can achieve the next best thing---the social connection. After a major life change, say, when a spouse dies, you retire, or your kids leave home, you simply interrupt your personal story. It is here that a belief in a higher power can boost more than just the spirit. Research conducted at the Duke University shows that people who attend church, temple or mosque at least four times a month, are less likely to engage in risky behavior, be depressed, or feel chronic stress---especially the lonely.
*Dr. Tej Munshi, Ex.Professor in Applied Sciences, NIT (J&K) now based in the US. Pl. favour with feedback at : tejmunshi@gmail.com
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