Feelings of loneliness can be very hard to deal with. Modern society has had a tendency to isolate us from one another even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but since its arrival feelings of isolation and loneliness have gone off the scale.
Hundreds of millions of people have lost their livelihood due to the shutdowns. The divorce rate has gone up, as has the suicide rate. While we know COVID-19 has caused 2.8 million deaths worldwide, including almost 550,000 in the US, researchers are just beginning to look at the cost of increased loneliness as a result of government lockdowns. These costs are particularly high among the elderly and those who live alone.
“For more than a million residents of nursing homes, the lockdowns themselves have been devastating,” the New York Times reported. “Cut off from family and largely confined to their rooms, many residents lost weight and saw ailments worsen. Some grew increasingly confused. Others sank into depression and despair.”
For more than a year, health officials have told the public to wear masks and stay at least six feet apart to slow the spread of the virus. But wearing masks and being unable to share simple touch also comes with a cost.
We are designed to thrive on social interaction. Much of our ability to express our emotional state has been hidden behind masks. Trying to navigate in a world where it’s impossible to tell how people are really feeling about us or what their real intentions are is incredibly disorienting and very isolating.
Social distancing also increases feelings of isolation as people are unable to share a hug with a relative in a nursing home or a new graduate who is not in their immediate family. When we come to fear human contact, we lose one of the primary things that makes our lives worth living and brings joy to our souls.
You may have heard the CDC proclamation that the pandemic has shortened our lifespans by a year, an assertion that some doctors say is wildly inaccurate. Yet years before the pandemic struck, researchers warned that loneliness and social isolation can cause early death, shortening lives by years. Research has linked isolation and loneliness to higher risks for high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression, weakened immunity, and death. These results clearly illustrate the connection between our emotional and physical health and well-being.
We now know that intense negative emotions can leave us with “emotional baggage.” A new understanding of quantum physics as it relates to emotions is indicating very strongly that emotional experiences may result in the energy of old emotions becoming trapped in our physical bodies, leading to a greater propensity for emotional difficulties such as depression, panic attacks, phobias, eating disorders, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) later in life.
Recognizing and removing the emotional baggage is essential to not only maintaining a healthy outlook, but to improving and maintaining your health overall.
In times like this, it is more important than ever to focus on the good things in your life. It may sound trite, but “counting your blessings” will shift your mood to the positive before long. Consider going on a “media diet.” Stop watching the news for a while. Get outside, go for a walk, and breathe. Your body was designed to breathe, just as it was designed with an immune system to help you fight off illness.
If feelings of loneliness are overwhelming for you, do something about it. Use the internet to connect with people that you’ve lost touch with. Reconnect with family members if you can do so positively. Instead of focusing on your own feelings, think about what you might be able to do to help other people who are suffering. Find acts of service that you can do for them.
Finally, remember that you are never really alone. There is a God in heaven, your Father in a very real sense, who loves you with a love that fills the universe. Talk to Him. Ask Him for his help. Remember, “Ask and you shall receive!”
By Dr. Bradley Nelson