We don’t choose our families, but we pick our own friends. They’re an integral part of our lives. We share with them things we hesitate to share with our families. Apart from filling the void in our lives, they’re also vital for our mental health.
A study published by SRCD associates strong friendships with increased self-worth and decreased symptoms of anxiety. Young adults who form strong bonds with peers are better suited to tackle social situations later on in their lives.
How Can Loneliness Affect Mental Health?
Loneliness causes anxiety and other mental health disorders. But if you have a friend, who accepts you for who you are, is all ears when you express and confess, and guides you in case you go off-track, you feel less threatened and can better deal with the symptoms of mental health disorders.
A report by Plos One compares the lack of a social circle to smoking and obesity. The number of friends a person has is a better indicator of happiness, stress, and well-being levels than monitoring heart rate and sleep cycle through fitness trackers. An active social life helps lower stress levels, promoting healthy and positive behaviour. This, in turn, improves mental health as well as cardiovascular health.
Major Causes for Increase in Loneliness and Mental Health Issues
According to the Cigna U.S Loneliness Index, a study of 10,000 participants, at least three out of five were lonely. There are various reasons why this phenomenon is on the rise. And this is raising mental health concerns among the general population.
How Social Media Affects Mental Health
People spending more time on social media platforms are 3x more likely to experience social isolation.
An article in Sciencedirect advises against the use of social media. Greater use of the platform correlates with greater symptoms of anxiety and depression. In this age of social media, everyone is online. People are making their personal lives public, for everyone to see. A glimpse into other people’s “happening lives” can make you feel excluded and rejected. And leave you with FOMO- the fear of missing out.
You may end up feeling that your life is not as great as (the portrayal of) your friends’ lives. This may trigger jealousy and envy, throwing the door open for other symptoms of anxiety.
Poor Social Skills and Mental Health
A study by the University of Arizona observed people with poor social skills. It found that this subset is more susceptible to developing mental health problems. And they’re not even aware of their shortcomings. They’re usually rejected from job interviews, or end up creating a ruckus. They’re also more likely to avoid other people. This leaves them even more isolated, leading to anxiety and depression.
Workplace Mental Health Issues
Harvard Business Review published a study that states that Americans are lonely workers. This is evident in their poor performance, fewer promotions, and frequent job switches. Not spending enough time in one place also leads to poor rapport with colleagues. This leads to further loneliness, anxiety, and depression.
How To Overcome Loneliness and Depression
Loneliness and depression go hand in hand. One aggravates the other, forming a vicious circle. But it’s not like Abhimanyu’s “Chakravyuh” in the Mahabharata, that you can’t get out of. You can adopt certain practices to break this loop and feel loved. And improve your mental health in the process.
- Acknowledge and accept you’re lonely and that it’s okay to feel that way. It’s not the end of the world.
- If you can’t open up to your loved ones, talk to a therapist. An unbiased opinion gives you perspective, allowing you to make rational decisions.
- Find like-minded people and connect with them. It’s reassuring to know you’re not the only one with these feelings
- Engage in a hobby and join forums and groups with similar interests
- Volunteer. The impact you’ll be making on others’ lives will give you happiness, along with a platform to network
- Ditch social media and focus on interacting with people in-person
- Make an effort to reconnect or nurture your existing relationships. You don’t want to seek new friends while letting go of your existing ones
Understanding The Gravity of Loneliness and Mental Health Problems
Loneliness does not mean the absence of other people in your life. You may have friends and family surrounding you, and still, be lonely. It’s important to have emotional connections with other human beings. Man is a social animal. Lack of strong bonds does not bode well for him.
Loneliness is a major cause of mental and physical health issues. Its effects can be as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It can also lead to obesity, heart ailments, high blood pressure, and Alzheimer’s. Along with anxiety and depression.
Relationships and social bonds are important for the human species to survive. Without them, you can’t be happy even if you’re the richest person on this planet. If you have friends in your life, make sure you don’t let them go. If you don’t, it’s time to make new ones and get out of the cycle of loneliness and depression.