Q&A: What does isolation and loneliness do to our physical and mental health?

Sad woman looking out of the window in loft apartment

Q: What does isolation and loneliness do to our physical and mental health?

A: More research is confirming that physical isolation and emotional aloneness can contribute to premature death at the same rate as sedentarism and obesity, which have been proven to cause a 30% increase in premature death. Eliminating social interaction entirely dramatically heightens one of our greatest fears—dying alone. This constant fear—which underpins many of the feelings, thoughts, choices, behaviors, and habits in our life—spikes anxiety and cortisol, which when chronically elevated, decreases immune function, deteriorates sleep quality, drives emotional food cravings, and increases the incidence of depression. This is why, say during a pandemic that mandates isolation and restricts social gatherings, a lot of news is turned to mental health.

However, it’s equally as possible to turn isolation and aloneness into an opportunity for growth.

Even though we are wired for relationships via our social and emotional limbic brain to mitigate the fear of dying alone, we also have a need for ‘me time’. Whether we take alone time to meditate, contemplate, take a walk, go for a run, or commune with nature, this time affords us the opportunity to build a deep relationship with ourselves. In fact, we all probably know of individuals who live alone and are very comfortable with themselves and go on to live long lives. Why? They exhibit many lifestyle traits of a positive mental attitude, like gratitude, self-confidence based on self-appreciation, savoring life’s little pleasures, connecting to ‘flow’, and going for joy over happiness. We will share more of these traits when we discuss positive psychology and it’s findings for mental and emotional health in our next Health Talk Happy Hour.

If we invest in “in-the-moment” alone-time (whether we live alone or not) to notice the thoughts and feelings that arise in relation to being isolated or feeling alone, we can learn a lot about ourselves. We can choose to become curious about the various ways we all avoid the discomfort that connects to our deepest existential fears, and the feelings of heartache, boredom, and anxiety that are connected to those fears. We can also see how our hardwired habits of desire, craving, compulsion, and even addiction are tied to avoiding these uncomfortable feelings. Through compassionate (non-judgmental) self-observation, we can be curious about what is underneath our feelings and actions. This mindful self-awareness expands our sense of self and gives us the freedom to make different choices. And when we make choices that are aligned with our core values, we build a positive mental attitude, which ultimately, supports longevity.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below: