5 Ways Your Body Reacts To Loneliness
Freelancers are the kings and queens of vitamin D deficiencies. We spend most of our time inside, slumped over a laptop, alone. Yeah sure, sometimes we get outside, sometimes we work in cafes or libraries, but even then, we're all alone in a crowded room. Yes, even in the busiest of cafes, freelancers are divided by headphone-encapsulated invisible digi forcefields that keep us from interacting.
Regardless of your job, it seems like we're all on deadline; we're all behind and our human interactions for the day are limited to ordering coffee and G-chatting. But underneath all that slouching and typing, a loneliness brews inside of us. We all long for interaction. For a laugh break. For a brief exchange of last night's stories. For an extra set of eyes on our work. For a creative collaboration. For an ear to complain into. For a palm to high five. We all want these things, but we don't know how to ask for them. And so we sit, isolated, quiet, and with gaping voids and dusty vocal chords. Clearly this issue is not limited to freelancers — many people in varying positions can find themselves unable to achieve a healthy level of social interaction.
When you spend enough time by yourself, you start to realize subtle changes in your body's behavior. They come out when you least expect them — on a call with customer service or at the grocery store. And a life without proper social stimulation leads to loneliness, which can be deadly. So for my part, we freelancers do our best to create social situations for ourselves. Whether it be joining an exercise class or talking to dogs on the street, we try to interact. We try, because it's important, because our health is at risk — and anyone else who has an isolating job should take note. Here are a few ways that our bodies react to that shortage of social interaction:
It affects wiring to the frontal lobes
Research shows that social interactions taking place in one's early 20s has significant effects on the maturation of connections in the frontal lobes as pertaining to neuro-psychological disorders. If that sounds confusing, the TL;DR is that your brain is still developing at this age, and a lack of social stimulation can have negative affects that increase sensitivity to mental illness.
It compromises the immune system
When social isolation triggers loneliness, the brain releases stress hormones. In short, it's our nature to worry and feel vulnerable when we're alone. The stress hormone cortisol can have weakening affects on the immune system. So yes, being a hermit can actually make you sick.
It increases your susceptibility to depression
That fiery stress hormone cortisol is also to blame for sending you into a funk. When you're stressed, you're anxious and when you're anxious your endorphin and serotonin levels are low. This creates the perfect environment for a deep, dark funk. Human interaction can pull you out. Just the feeling of touch can instantly lower the body's blood pressure.
It causes insomnia
You might feel tired at the end of a long day with yourself, but it's not a satisfying exhaustion. The lack of external stimulation can cause a restlessness that can keep you up at night. The types of questions that you might workout in a conversation with a friend and the type of expression you might be able to release with a collaboration can just stack up in your mind and spin around while you try to sleep. And let's not forget, sleepiness cases stress and stress causes a release of cortisol which will get even more in the way of you and a restful sleep.
It causes poor digestion and health
Studies show that people who spend time alone are less likely to treat themselves with nutrient-rich foods. It's believed that people who eat with friends or lovers are more likely to choose healthy foods and put effort into eating healthy. Fatty and sugary foods are preferred by those who suffer from isolation and those types of foods have negative affects on the body's digestion.