It is no secret that we live in an age of social isolation. Now more than ever, adults feel like their relationships aren't meaningful, and they feel isolated. Each person's home has become their castle, only to leave for work and shopping, with neighbors resembling strangers rather than people you know and trust.
So, you likely have isolated feelings, and if you are reading this article, you want to know how to fight back.
Isolation is not as straightforward as you would like to think; it is not just being alone and not being around others - that is solitude. Instead, isolation is a much more pervasive and long-lasting thing than solitude. Isolation can also occur without even being alone. Emotional isolation can feel like being disconnected from others despite having relationships that should provide meaningful connections.
Isolation is defined as a lack of social relationships or emotional support. Isolation doesn't mean you are alone, but it surely means you feel that way.
Many of us feel like we are just floating through life, without meaning or purpose. Relationships are one of the best ways to eliminate the feeling of meaninglessness that springs up throughout our lives; furthermore, it is one of the best ways of actually providing meaning. Therefore, isolation can be deadly. Isolation is severely damaging to our physical health, taking years off our life if not treated properly.
There are many risk factors associated with isolation feelings, many of which we will discuss in the next section, but some causes of isolation may be:
Many more risk factors that are not listed can lead to isolation feelings besides those listed, but these are some of the primary causes.
Social isolation can spring up from a buildup of external events or appear without a prominent inciting event. Different personalities and states of mind can be more prone to isolation feelings. For example, if you find yourself quite extroverted and need meaningful connections to others but can't seem to connect to others around you, you may feel isolated.
But if you are more introverted, you may not mind the lack of connection with others as much, so you would not feel as strong isolation feelings. Of course, personalities are much more complicated than this simple reductionism, but different personalities may be more prone to isolation.
Below are steps you can take that may, more directly, help your effort to feel less isolated. We will look at some of the common causes of isolation and how to fix them, in addition to listing ways that you can connect with others.
Ways To Connect With Others And Eliminate Causes Of Isolation
It is well known now that social media use can cause, and more commonly, amplify feelings of social isolation. While it promises to help us connect with others, the truth is, social platforms don't connect us with people around us all that much; it usually just provides a medium for self-criticism and social competition. However, this is not to say that social platforms cannot be used constructively - they can connect far-off friends and such. But that is not typically how it is used, nor is it even that effective at connecting people.
If you want to stay connected with others, grab a coffee, or invite them over, or if they live far away, give them a call. Liking the occasional picture or commenting a compliment on a post isn't enough to provide you with the feeling of genuine connection that we, as humans, crave so much.
Having lunch or coffee with friends once a week or so can do wonders for your mental health. Spending time with friends spontaneously, or just every once in a while, is excellent as well. However, especially for those who are busy and don't make much effort to get out, a time set in stone can be a lifesaver. With something to look forward to, even small bouts of isolation can be lessened by looking forward to the upcoming quality time spent with those who truly care.
An example of this may be a dinner club that meets once every week or two, gets coffee once a week, or even plays games. It is just a way to find an excuse to get together with friends, and if you do something fun in addition to that, that's even better! So, consider something like a new hobby or joining a team or club to spend time with friends while also doing something you enjoy.
Building off the points of number two, getting involved in something enjoyable can be great for connecting with others. Picking up a hobby, skill, or activity, and pursuing it actively and consistently, can be a fantastic way for you to gain the excuse to find a group of people who share similar interests as you. More than just the social aspect, finding meaning in something you are passionate about reduces feelings of isolation because you now have something more meaningful to dedicate time to.
As unrelated as it sounds, maintaining good health can be vital not just to your happiness but to your feelings of social isolation as well. The act alone of getting out and going to the gym or on the run can get you outside and around other people. Even if you don't talk to others as you exercise, being in public can help.
Additionally, the rush of endorphins from exercise can do wonders for your mental health and put you in a great position to feel and act energized. Proper sleep and dieting will also bring you the energy and naturally good endorphins to help you gain control of your day and mood.
Often, feelings of loneliness and isolation from others stem from actual isolation and the internal dialogue in your head. If you don't take steps to control this inner dialogue and challenge your inner critic, you can succumb to self-inflicted pain.
Insecurities and a fear of what is outside your comfort zone can be enough to push you to avoid both attempts to reach out and connect with others and to appreciate and value those connections. So, by challenging that part of yourself that holds you back, you can begin seeing real possibilities for connection.
If you struggle with working up the will to make connections and find yourself continually falling into the same old habits and self-inflicted misery - there is one solution for you: to gain control of your own life. It can be easy to let things go in a world where we can hide behind our screens and digital personas, where accountability is easy to sidestep. But each individual needs to acknowledge the responsibility they have to themselves and the world around them to take care of themselves and make some difference.
By practicing small steps to gain control over your life, you can build the willpower and the motivation to see the vast control you have over your life. If you want to feel lonely, you can feel lonely, but you can do that if you want to make connections with others. But first, you need to acknowledge that it is your responsibility to make that change.
Fighting feelings of social isolation is a difficult thing to undertake. Isolation can commonly lead to depression if not handled correctly; that's why we want to help. Therapy is a powerful tool for fighting the feelings of isolation that exist and fester in every one of us. By reaching out for help from a professional, you can gain access to the tools to battle your problems to your fullest extent.
Even calling someone, you trust to talk about the problem is an excellent step towards making a difference.
In conclusion, isolation is a scary and dangerous thing; no one wants to feel alone. That's why if you notice that you have had isolated feelings and disconnected from others for an extended period, you owe yourself to do something about it - reach out for help, challenge your inner critic, or set up meeting times with friends - you can beat this.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Everyday Health, a health information resource, explains that when you feel isolated or feel lonely, you start to feel cut off, withdrawn, and sad about being yourself. Isolation and loneliness can lead to the development of mental illness, such as anxiety, depression, or other forms of mental illness. However, when attempting to cope with loneliness, feel less lonely, or feel comfortable being alone, health information resources and national helplines can provide you with a wealth of knowledge to work through a mental illness that could contribute to these feelings.
To cope with loneliness, friends or family members may start to feel the need to remove themselves from situations. Although it may seem counterintuitive, Vista Toas explains mental and emotional distress make some people feel like they can’t talk to others, and they may even feel lonely in a crowded room. Mental illness can make isolation and loneliness seem like the proper solution. However, national helplines and health information can help them realize that there are ways to feel less lonely. Making new friends, seeing a therapist, and even taking steps to find health insurance that covers mental illness consultations are often the first steps to helping people work through their feelings of isolation and loneliness.
The American Psychological Associates explains that feelings of isolation and loneliness can affect “your physical, mental, and cognitive health.” When you’re feeling isolated or feeling lonely, anxiety, depression, and other forms of mental illness are just a few of the problems that may develop. You may also start to feel sick more often, withdraw yourself from friends and family members, and neglect past times you usually enjoy. Reaching out to a national helpline can get you the health information you may need if you’re dealing with isolation and loneliness, don’t feel comfortable, or have the proper health insurance to talk to your regular doctor.
When feeling lonely, you can start to feel like few people can understand or care about your situation. However, isolation and loneliness are often the causes of this self-fulfilling cycle; when a mental illness convinces you to remove yourself, you don’t have people around that may care or want to talk. The option for new friends, professionals, or national helplines is more available when you acknowledge that feeling lonely doesn’t have to make you alone. For example, when you’re feeling lonely, you can reach out to a national helpline to help you determine the symptoms of a possible mental illness and get you closer to the resources you need to stop feeling lonely so often.
There are several ways to tell when a person may feel lonely. If you find them withdrawing from the conversation, avoiding new situations, or possibly even making jokes about feeling lonely, they may subtly be isolating themselves. However, if someone is reaching out more often, more disappointed about canceled plans, or looking for more grand activities than usual, they could also reach out for help when feeling lonely.
Cigna contributes to chronic loneliness and isolation as a possible mental illness. They explain that the signs of possible isolation are the inability to connect with others, exhaustion, lack of social interest, negative feelings towards yourself, and more. Reaching out to a national helpline or your regular therapist can help you understand how isolation can contribute to mental illnesses and what to look for when you feel you or your loved ones may be isolating yourself.