What Is Loneliness?
Have you ever felt lonely? That feeling you get at a party when you don’t know anyone? Maybe after a long week without hearing from any friends or family? Loneliness is similar to sadness and unhappiness. It is an experience of distress or discomfort caused by a desire for social connection or lack of it. Though typically noticed during isolation, loneliness can be sensed when surrounded by others.
Being around people does not always guarantee connection (the opposite of loneliness). There are plenty of people with countless friends who feel lonely. You can feel lonesome in a crowded room or at a party if you are unheard or misunderstood. According to a 2018 survey published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 22% of adults in the United States struggle with loneliness. When a person is lonely, there is a discrepancy between desires for social connection and its actual experiences.
To be clear, loneliness is not depression, though the two may be linked. Depression is a mental health condition that can linger and get worse even with authentic connections. Loneliness is a transient state that can be satiated with genuine relationships. Depression sometimes does not go away while loneliness can.
The Risks Of Loneliness And Using Alcohol To Cope
Feeling lonely is as bad for your health as smoking. Chronic loneliness can trigger genes that cause inflammation within the body. They also trigger a release of cortisol (a stress hormone), resulting in physical and mental damage. Over time, high cortisol levels and inflammation can lead to disorders like cancer, autoimmune disease, or early mortality. The long term effects of loneliness are catastrophic and disruptive. It is critical to take steps to reduce loneliness by improving social connections. Unfortunately, as a way of coping, many individuals turn to alcohol.
Over time the regular consumption of alcohol as a temporary form of relief causes negative consequences. For healthy adults, the suggested moderate consumption of alcohol is three drinks a week. People struggling with loneliness, however, are very likely to exceed the advised amount. A study published by the National Library of Medicine reported alcohol use as significantly higher in people battling loneliness. Over 66.1% of people who drink an average of 4–7 days a week report feeling lonesome often or sometimes. When used as a “salve” for emotional distress, alcohol’s high consumption can lead to more anguish in the long run.
Prolonged alcohol abuse increases the risk of developing severe health problems, like:
- Cancer (breast, throat, esophagus, liver and of the mouth)
- Cardiovascular disease related to sudden deaths
- Heart muscle damage (alcoholic cardiomyopathy)
- Heart failure
- High blood pressure
- Liver disease
- Serious injury
- Accidental death
- Brain damage
- Problems in an unborn child
- Alcohol withdrawal syndrome
The risks associated with drinking alcohol outweigh all possible health benefits. Consuming alcohol to forget or not feel lonely is a temporary fix that can lead to addiction or early death. Luckily there are plenty of other ways to soothe and eliminate loneliness.
Six Ways To Deal With Loneliness Without Alcohol
If you are dealing with loneliness, you are not alone; 3 out of 10 adults in the United States are battling the same phenomenon. Just like a new exercise regimen that improves your health, you can develop a routine to combat loneliness. By building emotional strength and resilience, you will improve your quality of life. Below are 6 ways you can deal with loneliness without alcohol.
Get Some Sun Daily
Exposure to the sun’s natural rays is excellent for your health. Sunlight is essential for the mind and body. It gives us a boost of energy in the mornings and alerts our body when it’s time to begin winding down.
A healthy dose of sunlight has a positive effect on:
- Mental health
- Healthy aging
- The risk of developing cancer
- Weight loss
- Bone density
- Blood pressure
- Overall mood
Under exposure to sunlight is as dangerous as smoking and obesity. If you want to feel an instant dose of happiness, step outside and breathe in the fresh air, just make sure you do it safely by wearing sunblock lotion!
Examine Your Relationships
Loneliness is sometimes due to a lack of genuine relationships. Take a moment to examine the people you are surrounded by. Consider your circle of friends, work colleagues, and family. Are the majority of your relationships superficial or genuine? If most of your relationships are skin-deep, consider deepening them or making new friends.
Develop Genuine Relationships
After a thorough examination of your relationships, take action, and begin to deepen the connections you want to keep. Make an effort to reach out to your friends and family. Check-in regularly with your coworkers and acknowledge their important life events, like a son’s birthday party or recent promotion. By putting in effort to create and maintain genuine relationships, you can combat loneliness without resorting to alcohol for relief.
Organize events, activities, or a party for friends, family, and coworkers. Make a list of your interests or hobbies and begin talking to your acquaintances about starting a running group or weekly game night. By actively organizing outings, you can meet your own emotional and social needs.
Go Out More
Make an effort to go out more. Avoid streaming another series alone or sleeping all day; instead, do something new. Take a bike ride through town and invite others to join. Look up outdoor community events that sound interesting to you. Whatever you do, just make sure you are having fun and breaking up your daily routine.
One of the best ways to make social connections and fight off loneliness is by becoming a volunteer. People who volunteer are in constant contact with others. The regular interactions help volunteers develop a healthy support system. Volunteers are an essential part of society and tend to have excellent relationship skills. To start volunteering, reach out to hospitals, animal shelters, or long term care facilities.
Having strong social connections takes effort and practice. By creating genuine friendships, you can actively fight off loneliness without becoming a victim of the phenomenon. Alcohol may be a quick fix, but it is not sustainable. Using alcohol as a temporary comfort can lead to addiction and further loneliness. Instead, actively strengthen your relationships.
Find Help For Alcohol Addiction And Loneliness
Often, loneliness can lead to alcohol addiction. If you or someone you know is battling alcohol addiction and loneliness, inpatient rehab may be the best option to recover. Contact a treatment provider today to start your journey towards recovery.