Have you ever felt isolated? Maybe you don’t enjoy spending your spare time with other people or maybe you want to but can’t find the opportunity. I personally believe isolation is one of the most detrimental circumstances that can impact our mental health. Most of us have been isolated at some point in our lives, or even spend most of our time isolated. Don’t get me wrong, isolation has its time and place. If you were to take a peek at my personal planner you would find two or three days per month highlighted where I allow myself to retreat to my shell for some rest and recovery. Finding time for yourself is important but finding a strong emotional connection with other individuals is equally as important for your health.
For the most part, I am a socially driven individual. I enjoy talking and sharing a laugh with just about anybody, but there have been times in my life when I have purposefully avoided making connections. We all do it, because we all have been hurt by other people at some point. Relationships are difficult and take a lot of work, but above all, they are a risk. Anytime we form a connection we risk losing it.
And losing relationships hurts.
The good news is that every connection we make is an opportunity to learn and grow; no connection is ever a mistake if we use it as an opportunity to discover more about ourselves. When we make and nourish connections, we don’t just fill up our social tank, but we feed our souls. Surprisingly, we even reap physical benefits. Don’t believe me? Here are 3 proven facts about relationships and your body.
Loneliness may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease
Recent population-based studies have found a connection between isolation and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. A recent 2018 article published in the journal of Antioxidant & Redox Signaling found that, “Lonely individuals have increased peripheral vascular resistance and elevated blood pressure.”1 This is even true for animal studies; isolated animals are more likely to develop atherosclerosis than their socialized counterparts.
Socializing may reduce your pain
A National Institutes of Health survey from 2012 revealed that a shocking number of American’s are dealing with some type of physical pain. An estimated 126 million adults reported dealing with pain in the last 3 months prior to the survey being conducted.2 That is a lot of pain. Interestingly, a study released early this year found that patients being treated for pain found more success in their pain management when they were able to engage with others and even recommend it as a therapeutic intervention.3
Isolation may increase your risk for Alzheimer’s
Loneliness has been associated with numerous mental impairments and illnesses including personality disorders, psychoses, cognitive decline, depressive symptoms, and Alzheimer’s Disease.4 A group of researchers followed 823 elders’ in Illinois for 4 years to look for associations between memory loss and perceived loneliness. At the end of the study, researchers found that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s was more than doubled in lonely individuals than those who socialized.5
Finding connections or re-establishing old one’s isn’t always easy but is absolutely worth it. You owe it to yourself to find and keep great relationships. Just a simple phone call or text can brighten your day and let somebody else know they are important, too.
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- Xia N, Li H. Loneliness, Social Isolation, and Cardiovascular Health. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2018;28(9):837-851.
- NIH analysis shows Americans are in pain. National Institutes of Health. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-analysis-shows-americans-are-pain. Published August 11, 2015. Accessed February 5, 2019.
- Karayannis NV, Baumann I, Sturgeon JA, Melloh M, Mackey SC. The Impact of Social Isolation on Pain Interference: A Longitudinal Study. Ann Behav Med. 2019;53(1):65-74.
- Hawkley LC, Cacioppo JT. Loneliness matters: a theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms. Ann Behav Med. 2010;40(2):218-27.
- Wilson RS, Krueger KR, Arnold SE, et al. Loneliness and risk of Alzheimer disease. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007;64(2):234-40.