Can people overcome their need for sociability

Community makes you happy: Overcoming loneliness

08.05.2020

Self help

A strong environment and a fulfilling relationship increase our quality of life tremendously. If they are absent, we can feel lonely. This is not just a painful feeling, but a condition that can also damage your health in the long term. Loneliness is a warning signal that should move us humans not to lose our social connection. Contrary to popular belief, it affects young people just as much as older people. You can find out how this doesn't happen in the first place or what you can do to escape the isolation in our tips.

Sociability is in our genes

We humans are social beings by nature. We want to belong and feel connected to other people. The feeling of loneliness is a warning sign that is deeply ingrained in us. It reminds us not to lose our social connection. Because from an evolutionary point of view, too, we depend on our social environment for a safe and healthy life. The togetherness in the tribe or in the village community was vital for a long time because it promised protection, food and a roof over one's head. To be excluded from the community used to be very dangerous. Although we in Germany are well supplied with everything we need for life today, the need for social closeness remains. If it is missing, we feel stress and pain. Because the brain regions responsible for pain and loneliness are identical!

Loneliness - a stress reaction with consequences

Your body often reacts to loneliness with signs of stress: your blood pressure rises and your blood is full of stress hormones. In addition, in a stressful state, your body shuts down processes that are not necessary for direct survival. For example, your digestion and immune system. If this condition persists for a long time, it puts a lot of strain on your whole body and the stress can make you sick. The risk of cardiovascular disease is increasing - as is the risk of developing diabetes or cancer. In addition, constant loneliness can lead to depression.

According to a study by Brigham Young University, Utah, USA, loneliness can lead to a health risk that is as high in the long term as obesity, lack of exercise or heavy smoking! A healthy social environment, close exchange and strong cohesion are therefore important components of a healthy lifestyle.

Alone and loneliness - an important difference

Being alone doesn't automatically mean that you feel lonely too. Many people enjoy having no one around them every now and then. A little break just for you can even be healthy. You can finally concentrate on your needs. But while we consciously choose to take a personal break, loneliness is not chosen by itself. Lonely people tend to feel sad and marginalized - often even when others are around them. They lack social interaction and the feeling of connection and belonging. As a result, their self-esteem also suffers in the long run.

A great danger lurks here. Because when people lose their self-esteem, it can easily make them feel less confident. They feel useless, inferior, and get caught up in negative thoughts. In addition, their communication skills can be lost. They become solitary and increasingly lack empathy, i.e. they find it difficult to empathize with others - they lose their sensitivity to polite manners. That makes it more and more difficult for them to break out of loneliness. Many also become more suspicious or fear rejection due to negative experiences. So they easily get into a self-reinforcing spiral from which it is difficult to free themselves with their own strength.

Young or old - loneliness can affect everyone

Moving to another city, a painful breakup, moving out of children or entering retirement - there are many situations that can make us feel lonely at times. Loneliness affects young and older people equally - and it is increasing in Germany. This is shown by the German Age Survey, a long-term study by the German Center for Age Issues. One reason for loneliness could be the increasing focus on the individual in our modern society. More and more people attach the highest priority to personal needs. In addition, young people often spend long periods of time abroad, move to another city to study or work, and thus lose personal contact with their former environment.

A slight increase in perceived loneliness can be seen in old age. Those affected then suffer particularly from major changes in life or social losses such as the death of a partner or lifelong relatives and friends. Or an illness restricts people and makes it difficult to participate in social life.

Digitization - new hope against loneliness?

Today, our lives are increasingly digital. On the one hand, this can be helpful because we have many new opportunities to make contacts, network and exchange ideas - with less fear of contact. As a result, we never have to be alone, but really deep encounters rarely occur. Technology can hardly hold a candle to real interpersonal contact. You probably know that from yourself. Extensive phone calls with loved ones can be fun, but a real hug and face-to-face conversations touch all the senses and fill us on a completely different level.

Tips against loneliness

If you're feeling lonely, the following tips can help you get back in touch with society:

  • Actively refresh old contacts. For example, spontaneously call relatives or friends / acquaintances whom you have not seen in a long time. Most of them are just as happy about the exchange as you are.
  • Bring more movement into your life. Regular physical activity - preferably outdoors - promotes stress reduction and lifts your mood. It's even more fun with a partner and you can motivate each other.
  • Make small pleasures for yourself on a regular basis. Wear your favorite clothes, treat yourself to a wellness day or your favorite dish. By doing something good for yourself, you boost your self-esteem.
  • Consciously take advantage of the small opportunities in everyday life. Whether it's a chat with old friends or small talk with the checkout staff in the supermarket - use the opportunities in everyday life to get in touch with others. Be curious and show your interest by asking questions.
  • Offer your help to others. Maybe you can sew or do shopping for people with limited mobility? Then offer your help on the Internet, in the neighborhood or with friends. In this way you promote your feeling of self-efficacy and your self-confidence also improves.

You can find more tips and inspiration against loneliness in our article for more self-love. We'll show you how to make friends quickly in our article “New to the area”. In addition, our online program “Stress under control” helps you to reduce stress and go through everyday life in a more relaxed manner.

Please note that this article cannot replace medical advice and treatment. If you feel lonely for a long time and do not know what to do on your own, please contact the doctor you trust.

Your AOK Hessen wishes you good health.