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Loneliness: Understanding and Beating the Hidden Health Risk

Editor’s note: A new study reveals loneliness at epidemic levels, with almost half of Americans missing meaningful in-person daily interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family. Loneliness can actually be life-threatening, notes veteran holistic physician Dr. Bradley Nelson, author of the bestselling book The Emotion Code. Dr. Nelson shares why loneliness kills as well as simple steps anyone can take to feel more connected to others.

Loneliness raises the risk of stroke and heart disease and contributes to depression, anxiety, and other health problems. I’ve noted the connection between loneliness and illness for years in my practice and in training thousands of practitioners around the world to identify and release emotional baggage that I call “trapped emotions.”

When an emotion becomes trapped in the body, a person will feel that emotion more easily under similar circumstances that created that emotion in the first place. This trapped emotional energy will tend to overlay and color their experiences. If a person has a trapped emotion of loneliness, for instance, that person will tend to become lonely much more readily than he or she otherwise would.

Extreme loneliness and grief can leave a person feeling as if his or her heart has literally broken. Heartbreak is a very real condition that can damage health and lead to premature death. A UK study found that bereavement doubles a person’s chances of dying of a heart attack or stroke.

But loneliness isn’t inevitable. Here are some simple to beat loneliness and improve health and well-being

  1. Make A Gratitude List: I have found that people suffering from depression tend to focus on the negative things in their lives rather than counting their blessings. One of the most important things you can do is to make a list every day of the things in your life that are actually good. It may seem like everything is bad in your life, and you don’t have any good things going on, but if you think about it you may come to a different conclusion.

2. Choose Your Emotions: Most people have this mistaken belief that our emotions choose us; they think that we are at the mercy of whatever emotions we tend to start feeling. But the reality of it is, no matter what the circumstance is, we choose our emotions. We can choose our feelings. It just takes practice. The next time someone says or does something that tends to trigger a negative emotion in you, step back, take a deep breath, and think of an emotion that will better serve you in the situation. For instance, you might choose to feel mercy or pity on someone who hurts you, rather than getting angry.

3. Reach Out: One of the best ways to overcome loneliness and isolation is to move outside yourself and take action to help others. That takes the focus away from you and enables you to turn that lens around so it is not pointed at you and all your trouble; instead it is pointed at somebody else who needs you.

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