Healing LonelinessFebruary 8, 2013 Written by JP [Font too small?]
Who are the healers of our day and time? In many countries, an image of physicians wearing white lab coats comes to mind. But, I’m here to tell you that if you’re exclusively counting on medical doctors and pharmacists to maintain your good health, you’re at a very big disadvantage. Optimally, healing and the promotion of wellness requires a much broader approach. From my vantage point, the person you see every time you look in the mirror is by far the most important contributor to your health status. But, eating right, exercising and managing stress is far from enough. While important, there’s more that you can and should be doing for yourself and those around you in the healing arena.
Common sense dictates that most negative emotions aren’t exactly good for your health. So, it may not come as a big surprise when I tell you that loneliness and a lack of social support contribute to a wide array of health issues. However, the extent that loneliness impacts the physical body may be more dramatic than you can imagine. In recent months and years, researchers have taken a keen interest in examining the physiological effects of feeling alone and socially isolated. The findings are nothing short of groundbreaking. Scientific inquiries reveal that lacking a sense of connectedness and social support hastens: a) the cellular aging process by shortening leukocyte telomere length; b) cognitive decline as evidenced by delayed and immediate recall and the onset of dementia, independent of other risk factors, including depression and vascular disease. Additionally, feelings of isolation increase the perception of depression, fatigue, pain and “enhances the risk for immune dysregulation”. For these reasons and others, perceived loneliness is now associated with heightened mortality rates among sick and well nursing home residents. This latter point is particularly vital to note. Seniors top the list of at risk populations that exhibit profound feelings of loneliness. They’re also the most vulnerable because they often have the least amount of choice and input as to how they can change their circumstances.
The good news is that there is a cure for loneliness. And, every healer that’s reading this (i.e. everyone who is reading this now), has the ability to intercede in the lives of those who feel alone. Perhaps, you even recognize that this is a more personal problem for you. If that’s the case, take this call to action seriously. You needn’t be alone. Researchers the world over have found that getting involved in programs such as group art or exercise classes, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or simply spending some quality time with animals (animal assisted therapy) can make a real difference on both physiological and psychological end-points. These suggestions may seem too simple to be powerful, but that’s not the case! In fact, engaging in such activities has lead to significant improvements in anxiety, cognitive functioning, depression, inflammation and beyond. What’s more, this data isn’t coming from some “touchy feely” guru or self help book. Every statement made above is based on peer reviewed publications in prestigious medical journals. So, take this potentially anti-aging, life saving information and apply it to the world around you. There’s no good reason for anyone to feel alone and isolated. After all, we are all the true healers.
To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:
Study 1 - Low Social Support Is Associated With Shorter Leukocyte Telomere … (link)
Study 2 - Social Isolation and Loneliness: Relationships w/ Cognitive Function … (link)
Study 3 - Feelings of Loneliness, but Not Social Isolation, Predict Dementia … (link)
Study 4 - Loneliness Predicts Pain, Depression, and Fatigue: Understanding … (link)
Study 5 – Emotional Loneliness is Associated w/ Mortality Among Mentally … (link)
Study 6 - Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Training Reduces Loneliness … (link)
Study 7 – A Randomized Trial of MBSR Versus Aerobic Exercise for Social Anxiety … (link)
Study 8 – Effects of Socially Stimulating Group Intervention on Lonely, Older … (link)
Study 9 - Animal-Assisted Therapy and Loneliness in Nursing Homes: Use of … (link)
Study 10 - The Effects of Animal-Assisted Therapy on Loneliness in an Elderly … (link)
Chronic Loneliness Is Linked to Increased Mortality Risk
Source: Journal of Aging Research Volume 2011 (2011) (link)
Tags: aging, Memory, Pain
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Heart Health, Mental Health