Loneliness is not only emotionally painful; it can harm your health. It’s a risk factor for a host of problems: high blood pressure; sleep problems; decreased ability to deal with the stress of daily life; and the body’s reduced ability to handle inflammation, leading to conditions such as atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and tendinitis, as well as a weakened immune system, so you’re more susceptible to illness. Researchers have yet to identify the exact ways these health problems occur, but they know that loneliness seems to make them worse.
How to cure loneliness
Get out and about. You don’t have to be best friends with someone to benefit from interaction. Amity Brown, who is separated from her husband, takes walks around her neighborhood, smiling at people she passes. “When I started getting to know the neighborhood and the people around me, I felt like part of a community,” she says.
Be selective about making friends. Hawkley points out that if you’re desperate for relationships, you may be willing to tolerate unacceptable treatment. Now that Brown is feeling more stable, she says, “I’m more careful when I choose my friends to make sure they’re low-drama.”
Stay positive. Lonely people tend to expect rejection, which makes it more likely to happen. Social cognitive therapy can help people reframe their thoughts about how others see them.