At home • 4 minute read
Social Isolation Doesn’t Mean You Have to be Lonely
By Kristina James
Published by Ruby
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We are all having a hard time adjusting to limited face-to-face interactions and a lack of time with friends and family. But, take the proper steps and you’ll find being socially isolated doesn’t mean you have to feel alone. We have put together some tips to help you stay and feel more connected with your loved ones.
What is Social Isolation?
Humans are social by nature and we don’t fare well in isolation for long. Still, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 28% of older adults live alone and of this group, 43% feel lonely on a regular basis. There’s a big difference between being alone and feeling lonely, that’s true, but prolonged isolation can lead to loneliness. And now, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased our risk of feeling lonely and experiencing its consequences.
It’s a Growing Problem
We’ve been coping with social isolation and loneliness long before the pandemic. While normally, a visit from friends and family is part of our lives, during the COVID-19 pandemic, accepting any outside visitors could expose you and others to the virus. The added challenge? Loneliness is also dangerous and can have significant negative effects on your mental and physical health.
Signs and Symptoms
It’s important to remember that social isolation and loneliness aren’t always hand-in-hand. You can have a life full of friends and family and still feel lonely, just as you can be alone without feeling lonely. Here are some signs you may be experiencing loneliness:
- Feelings of confusion
- Trouble remembering things
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty sleeping
Staying Healthy and Connected While Isolating
We can take steps to increase our mental, emotional, and physical health and stay well connected to our loved ones.
1) Make social interaction digital
There are plenty of ways to stay connected with friends and family over video calls. We’ve put together a list of the best video calling services, as well as easy guides on how to get started. Some of our favorites are:
- Google Hangouts
- Facebook Video Chat
2) Engage in mental activities
Keeping your mind active is important for your mental health and can enrich your overall health by increasing physiological responses in the brain such as the flow of oxygen, blood, and nutrients. Mental activities have also proven to be an effective strategy for delaying cognitive decline and impairment. (HealthEngine) Here are a few activities you can do while at home:
- Read or listen to that book you never had time for
- Pick up an art or craft project
- Learn a new language
- Try some mental games, such as puzzles, crosswords, and sudoku
3) Safely increase physical activity
The CDC says physical activity can create significant health benefits to limit the effects of loneliness, yet about 80% of older adults don’t engage in any physical activity. Even the most moderate physical activities can reduce anxiety and depression and fosters improvements in mood and feelings of well-being. Here are a couple of ways you can implement physical activity into your daily routine:
- Go on daily walks, making sure to maintain safe distancing from others.
- Interrupt sitting and reclining by standing every 30 minutes.
- Do an at-home workout.
4) Modify your diet
Some foods can have a positive impact on your mental health and can help reduce some of the effects social isolation has on your physical health. A Harvard study notes that adding these foods to your diet can help reduce depression:
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy
- Olive oil
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