Love helps protect you against depression
Why does loneliness feel so bad? Of all the risk factors for depression, a lack of love – which ends up in loneliness – is the most destructive. Loneliness is a type of chronic pain, a chronic stress; it chronically makes us feel bad. We are social creatures who try to avoid loneliness; many people try to find relief in alcohol and drugs. These only contribute to depression.
By “love,” I don’t just mean “a long-term relationship,” that’s only one form of love. There’s also the love of parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, children and others. Love is broad. Do what you can to find and keep all forms of love. This is not easy, it takes courage, vulnerability and humility to get on with people. Many people experienced a loving family early in their lives; others less so. Do what you can to keep in relationship with your family members.
Loneliness – a lack of love – Is strongly associated with decreased serotonin, a brain chemical. Lower serotonin levels lead to you feeling lonely, down, and anxious, while higher serotonin levels leave you feeling calm and content. Loneliness also leads to decreased noradrenaline and dopamine levels, deepening the depression.
In our wonderful but bewildering society, we tend to take family and friends for granted and put productivity or other things before people. This is what I see in my practice. Modern living encourages this and it is leading to more loneliness, more disconnect, and more isolation. Our emphasis on fame and success means that we put people second when they need to come first.
But I don’t have time is what so many of us say.
Remember, if you let others down, they will let you down. For work or pleasure, many of us travel a lot; this keeps us away from loved ones. And we’re not being authentic to the people around us, we’re being fake, polite and disingenuous.
When we’re fake, we build a wall around our real selves. To make a connection you need to build a bridge, not a wall. Walls don’t let love in or out. Or we compare ourselves with others, and fear we’re missing out; but we compare our real selves with others’ fake appearances. We read people’s glam posts on social media:
having a great time, having awesome experiences, seeing exciting stuff.
How many people post
cried all night after an argument; didn’t do well in the exam; felt crap and lonely; or I really miss my family?
Let’s get real, particularly with family and friends. That’s the way to share love.
Take care of your greatest assets: your relationships; the people in your life.
I work with many lonely people. Even the loneliest of people have someone that they could call and reconnect with. But it’s so hard. It’s hard to let bygones be bygones, it’s hard to forgive and forget, it’s hard when you feel misunderstood, it’s hard when there’s been so much hurt and so much has been left unsaid.
Do it anyway.
Reconnect with someone. Pick up the phone, send a text or an email. It’s worth it. You’ll be surprised. They may be very glad you called. They may be lonely too. They may like you more than you realise. They may want to share a little love or kindness too.
More love means less depression.