Social Well-Being: Is your busy-ness leading to loneliness?

 Americans love busy-ness. Unfortunately, the pace we keep with our job, chores, and family obligations mean the average person “works” 60+ hours per week. It’s no wonder people just want to plop down on the couch and veg out when they get home.

The problem with this, of course, is that with all of the busy-ness and all of the plopping, we no longer socialize with our neighbors, friends, or family in truly meaningful ways. This busy-ness, along with an increasing reliance on technology, is affecting our social well-being.

There are also more of us living alone. Back in the 1940s, living alone was rare. In fact, according to the US Census at that time, only seven percent of households were single dwellers. As of the 2013 census, that number rose to 20 percent.

The social fabric of our world has changed. Because of all this busy-ness, people begin to seek “a little more peace and quiet” and thus begin a slow, steady retreat away from the far-too-frantic world. But that small retreat can begin a drift toward self-inflicted loneliness … saying “no” to so many things in the name of quiet time can lead to a feeling of being left out.

So we do a dance back and forth, a mental tug-of-war between wanting to stay connected and needing to be left alone.

The significance of this (and why we are telling you about it) is because of the association between aloneness and poor health. Medical researchers agree that socially connected people live longer, have better immune systems and respond better to stress. From heart attacks to dementia, connections matter to your health! This is why social well-being is one of the most important of the five pillars.

So how do you “fix” these connections?

  1. Ask yourself, “Am I retreating when I should be reaching out?” (an interesting sidenote: psychotherapists have noted that many patients were more willing to say they were depressed than lonely)
  2. Understand that social exclusion (feeling left out/lonely) is a very powerful experience and it can change the way a person thinks, behaves and feels. If you think someone in your area often feels excluded (think about those one-person departments or telecommuters who spend the day alone), make an effort to include him or her in something.
  3. Try talking to your neighbors like they did in the days before garages and privacy fences! Connecting with your home community can make you feel included and safer.
  4. Find out more about social well-being and how it influences your physical well-being.

Have you ever retreated only to find yourself withdrawing too much? How did you climb back? Did your health (mental or physical) suffer? Let’s talk!

Just joining us for this series? Check out the previous article on physical well-being, or head back to the beginning!

Source: The Lonely American