“I’m feeling lonely.”
Most travellers, or anyone, really, feel lonely from time to time (despite what all the beautiful pictures you see on your Facebook feed or on travel blogs would have you believe)! But, when the loneliness starts to drag on, some of us can run into chronic loneliness, where it turns into something of a condition that gets harder and harder to remedy.
According to Psych Central, loneliness triggers serious health risks affecting our endocrine, immune, and cardiovascular systems. It even accelerates death. They cite a recent study showing lonely people have increased risk for cancer, neurodegenerative disease, and viral infections.
“Perceived loneliness triggers a flight-or-fight stress response. Stress hormones and inflammation rise, and exercise and restorative sleep decrease. Norepinephrine surges, shutting down immune functions and ramping up production of white blood cells that cause inflammation. Meanwhile, it makes us less sensitive to cortisol that protects us from inflammation.”
Neuroscientist Turhan Canli has said being lonely, even for one year, affects our genetic inflammatory response the following year. It’s a self-reinforcing, negative, emotional spiral.
“I’m extremely lonely and depressed and don’t know what to do”
Loneliness vs solitude
“For years in my thirties I was grindingly lonely. I woke up every morning to an empty flat, and I dreaded the end of the work day since it meant another long evening alone. I craved connection, but had no idea how to create it, and so wound up in a loop: I was so often lonely, I assumed that loneliness was all there was.” -Emily White, author of Lonely
If you spend evenings and weekends on your own at home and are wondering whether that makes you a loner or a social outcast, first know there is nothing wrong with spending time alone. In fact, many people wish they could have more time to themselves (I know I do!). BUT there is a huge difference between loneliness and solitude.
Can you reframe your loneliness as solitude? Imagine all that time going into work on your projects, listening to music in total peace, anything you want without interruption.
Still lonely? That’s ok. After all, even the most solitary souls need some kind of community backing them up. It’s hard to enjoy solitude when it isn’t a choice.
The lonely expat – Where to meet people
“Sometimes I feel like the Internet makes it easier to not *really* be there for a friend, but still feel like I’ve done my duty because I wrote Happy Birthday on their wall. I have to work harder to make myself not be lazy and give people that are important to me a call or make plans to do something in person.” – Lonely reader on Goodreads
Needless to say, liking Facebook posts or chatting with family or friends back home isn’t enough social interaction for most of us. We need to meet people in our communities and in person. best places to meet people vary depending on where we live.
The best places to meet people vary depending on where we live, our interests, place of work, etc. You need to examine where the opportunities are in your area and map out a plan for social interaction accordingly.