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Loneliness Harms Health: Why You Need Friends

Search the web and you will find that such studies about the impact of isolation and loneliness on the body abound, and most point to the importance of perceived loneliness rather than specifics about actual social interaction. Most of us have had at least some experience with feeling lonely even while in a crowd. You can’t gauge loneliness by how many people with whom you surround yourself.

How many “friends” do you have on Facebook and other online networking platforms? Do these people meet your need for companionship? The social networking available online can help ease the sense of isolation, especially for people with mobility problems, but only to a point.

Getting out of the house and into social situations can help us to feel like active participants in the world, but it is still not enough. What we need, and what is increasingly lacking, is face time with people we feel comfortable with, people we trust, people with whom we can let our hair down and be ourselves. In my book, face time means turning off the trappings of technological distractions. No texting while visiting, please.

When I was raising young children as an “at home mom,” my life was the perfect storm for isolation and loneliness. Most mothers in my neighborhood were working and I lived 1,000 miles away from parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other assorted family members who would otherwise enrich my daily life.

Fortunately, I made a couple of friends who, although we now are also geographically separated, remain part of my most cherished memories of that period.

One was a fellow at home mom. Living in the same neighborhood, we saw each other often, but set aside some “coffee time” every other week or so, alternating in each other’s homes. While our children played, we sipped coffee and shared our lives, our hopes, and our dreams. Our simple cup of coffee generally lasted two or three hours.

The other was a working mom, a teacher, who every so often would drop by for afternoon tea before going home to prepare dinner for her family. The children played while we laughed and cried and supported one another through all manner of good times and bad. Sometimes talk was serious, sometimes silly. Always enriching.

Those associations have remained with me as some of the most valuable friendships of my life because I knew that I could (and still can) count on these women for support and mutual respect. I didn’t need a lot of friends to stave off the feeling of isolation, just a few solid friendships. There was no way that I could have felt the pang of loneliness while these women were in my close circle, and it did us all a world of good.

It always comes back to that old mind/body connection. We all need to feel part of something meaningful, and we owe it to ourselves to make an effort to connect and reconnect with our fellow human beings. Our health and well-being depends on it.

Read more: Alzheimer's, Blogs, Caregiving, Conditions, Family, Friendship, Health, Living with MS, Multiple Sclerosis, , , ,

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11:11AM PDT on Apr 9, 2014

Friends can be backstabbers and horrible, getting out once in a while is nice, but I prefer dogs. Though I do like going to zumba and kickboxing classes, and swimming on my own. Maybe I'll join a swim group or exercise group, as long as the people aren't too nosy, and try and force me to date or do drugs. But then again, I enjoy exercising on my own or with one or two other people, and those classes. I also like my alone time when I come back, so I can read a book, study, take a nap, etc.

11:10AM PDT on Apr 9, 2014

Friends can be backstabbers and horrible, getting out once in a while is nice, but I prefer dogs. Though I do like going to zumba and kickboxing classes, and swimming on my own. Maybe I'll join a swim group or exercise group, as long as the people aren't too nosy, and try and force me to date or do drugs. But then again, I enjoy exercising on my own or with one or two other people, and those classes. I also like my alone time when I come back, so I can read a book, study, take a nap, etc.

9:25AM PDT on Jul 8, 2013

Friends? ha! as you get older most people do not make a lot of friends like one did when they were a teenager. It is much more difficult to meet and be accepted by the people one would like to know.

6:37PM PDT on Jun 26, 2013

Keep an eye open for like-minded people, a place or group for starters. Shared interests are key, only then do friendships that hold some weight develop Neighbors, schoolmates, etc. from "another time" who may have drifted in the day to day shuffle, but with whom you share memories and comradery, are sometimes easier to rekindle than you think ... give it a try?

Some amount of alone time is good for the soul, allows revisiting life, what's working, what's not, adjustment possibilities, etc. Isolation is not good for the soul.

What about volunteering (animal shelter, nursing facility), mentoring (summer camp/park district programs), taking up a hobby or cooking class, visiting another who's also alone (we all know someone, but often get caught up in our own pity party), gardening, bowling, music ... unexpected rewards often present, totally unexpected.

11:07AM PDT on Mar 24, 2013

Berny I agree

8:54AM PDT on Jul 23, 2012

Some peopledo not have a choice...they are lonely....

If you dont have a job...girls will not want to go out with you...
You dont own your flat......forget it ...girls dont want to know you...
You have volonter and gone to fight for your country.....forget it you become an outcast...do gooders tell you you are a murderer...

you have work hard in your study...you have a masters...you want to work but people only give you contract work.....so you never know when the next pay check comes from...

I have seen many young men in this situation in the uk and it break my heart when I try to help them!

Many girls now days are to aggressive and only think of money....
very glad that I meet a good english guy and been married for 45 years!

So girls ...think again...because someone has not got a job does not mean he is useless!

8:42AM PDT on Jul 23, 2012

More people really are lonely than admit to it I think.

4:57AM PDT on Jul 23, 2012

So true. Thanks for the timely article!

11:10AM PST on Jan 11, 2012

thank you for sharing:)

11:09AM PST on Jan 11, 2012

I need face time with people. I need to find people who want the same thing and actually mean it, not the "friends" that agree with you and you hang out once but then they don't respond back after that one day

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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