The Cure For Loneliness Is Building Meaningful Relationships
Updated: Jul 26, 2020
They say that loneliness kills…yet, I’m still alive.
I sometimes go through waves of emptiness and the feelings of being alone. Even though my family only lives 10 minutes away. I want to talk to someone just to talk. But more than anything, I want to laugh with someone.
I could watch something funny on Youtube but I’ve been doing that for a while.
I call on friends who are too busy or unable to make the time. They say they will call me back but that was days ago. I stop calling them because I don’t want to appear desperate. Friends? Maybe they aren’t. I’m not sure.
It feels like I have no friends because when I text the group chat no one replies…no one. Actually, they do but no one replies to me.
I feel lonely but I know that if I sleep I won’t feel it as much. Everything will be okay…if okay meaning waking up and reliving the feeling of loneliness.
Over and over again.
Can I ask you a question? Have you ever been lonely?
What About Loneliness?
Cigna conducted a survey in 2018, suggesting that nearly half of Americans reported feeling alone, isolated, and left out. With Millennials and those individuals belonging Generation Z being the loneliest out of any other generation. (1)
By the way, have you checked out my blog post “Millennials — The Loneliest Generation”?
The same Cigna study also suggested that 54% of participants said that no one knew them well. Also, 2 out of 5 suggested that they “lacked companionship” and that their “relationships aren’t meaningful.” (2)
Loneliness is likely to increase your risk of death by 29% (3)
Lonely people are more likely to suffer from dementia, heart disease, and depression. (4)
About 31% of Americans say that they find it difficult to make friends. (5)
Differentiating Loneliness & Being Alone
Loneliness is a subjective feeling that people are not with you, that they don’t understand you, and that you don’t feel connected. It’s the feeling of being alone, sometimes when you physically aren’t.
Being lonely and being alone isn’t the same thing and often the two are confused with each other. Because being alone is more physical than subjective. It’s not a feeling and you can be alone without feeling lonely.
I’ve experienced both as an introvert.
For a while, it didn’t make sense to me. I love being alone but now what I have been feeling these past few years is loneliness.
But most of us may think that it is a result of not having friends, being socially awkward, not having a partner, etc. But this isn’t necessarily the case.
Loneliness can take place in a relationship.
Loneliness can take place within a marriage.
Loneliness can take place even when you have thousands of Facebook friends.
Loneliness can take place even in a group setting with lots and lots of people.
Loneliness can stem from not having meaningful connections.
This could be one explanation as to why someone who is lonely can have a large number of friends and still feel alone.
Are There Health Risks Associated With Loneliness?
Loneliness is a growing health epidemic. We live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s. —Vivek Murthy
Recent research has shown that people who are lonely and isolated are more likely to have heart disease and stroke, get immune system problems, and may even have a harder time recovering from cancer (6)
It’s also clear that loneliness is closely linked to depression and may lead to premature death. (7)
Loneliness can have a wide range of negative effects on both physical and mental health such as: (8)
Cardiovascular disease stroke
Increased stress levels
Decreased memory and learning
Alcoholism and drug abuse
The progression of Alzheimer’s disease
Altered brain function
Depression and suicide
Connections are good for us. They strengthen our immune system, allow us to live longer, and reduces our anxiety and depression.
Humans have always been social beings. Sure, we praise independence and being able to make it through tough times without the help of others. But in reality, it is our connections with people that really push us to be better and to move forward in life.
Don’t think dependency as a bad thing because it really isn’t. It shouldn’t be shameful either. It’s our way of being socially connected to each other.
Think about job networking, which I loathe by the way. But it is extremely necessary and I acknowledge why people do it. Building a relationship with someone can help you. In this case, get that dream job you’ve been wanting.
By the way, does anyone else hate networking?
With that said, a lack of social connection can kill us. In fact, the American Psychological Association suggests that social isolation increases our risk of death. Almost twice the incidence of obesity. (9)
Connectivity has to do with our emotional health.
If you would like any recommendations on how to connect with people please see my previous blog post “6 Ways To Connect With People”.
Building Meaningful Relationships is What We Need
Throughout life, we will have had soo many relationships.
Either it is with a family member, classmate, friend, co-worker, lover, husband, wife...etc. (see my blog post: "Hey Google! How Can I Make Friends")
The good life is built with good relationships — Robert Waldinger
The definition of a relationship is the way in which two or more people or groups regard and behave toward each other.
And a meaningful relationship is one that is more valuable and is more significant than any other relationship. They will influence your well-being for the better.
We should all be investing in the right relationships because much of our happiness and success will depend on the relationships we build with others.
What’s the right relationship?
What’s the wrong relationship? I’m pretty sure most of us know what this could be.
Positive Relationships vs Negative Relationships
There are generally two kinds of relationships that most of us come across in our lives.
1. Positive relationships are relationships that are meaningful, healthy, and productive.
2. Negative relationships are negative, empty, toxic, abusive, and destructive.
Having meaningful relationships that will help better ourselves and what we should be doing is investing in more positive relationships while minimizing the negative ones.
What Does A Meaningful Relationship Look Like?
I’m very glad you asked and although I am not a relationship expert below is what a meaningful relationship looks like to me.
Meaningful Relationships for me are:
Encouraging — They will have the best interest in you and will want you to become the person that you want to be.
Supportive — Having someone be there for you when you need them makes all the difference.
Collaborative — You know what they say? “Teamwork makes the dream work”. You are able to work things out together. And any disagreements can be dealt with.
Fun — Relationships can be work but I don’t know about you but I like a good laugh. They also say that laughter is the best medicine and it kind of balances out all the serious stuff.
What I have realized is that the thing about successful relationships is that they are rarely one-sided. And when they are one-sided, relationships tend to collapse.
I don’t know how many times I have heard people tell me that feel like the relationship was not equal. One person would be investing more than the other. Hence, a negative relationship.
Meaningful relationships will take work and no relationship is perfect. But a meaningful relationship has the highest potential to overcome troubled waters if they were to arise.
The Benefits of Meaningful Relationships
According to Harvard Health, good connections and social support can improve overall health and increase longevity (10),
Lastly, people who reported having that they have positive social relationships with others also report being happier than those who report not having them (11).
Do you know what I regret most out of all these years?
I regret not maintaining friendships.
Not making an effort to be there for someone else.
For pushing people out because they either pissed me off or did me wrong.
For not accepting help because I was either too proud or too suspicious.
For not making time for others while expecting them to make time for me.
In the absence of a meaningful relationship, could be the presence of loneliness.
However, I know it is not too late just as long as there is Tinder.
Julianne Hold-Lunstad, a psychologist at Brigham Young University, conducted a study in which the findings suggested that loneliness leads to several health risks and even premature death.
If loneliness is a health risk…is there a cure?
The cure is (although not the only one) is to start building meaningful relationships.
Building meaningful relationships are not easy, they take work, and are not usually perfect. But the benefits of making and building relationships will help you live longer and live a happier life.