The US Surgeon General recently tweeted “social isolation is as bad for your health as smoking,” “is increasing” and “is widespread in the US”. Loneliness, according to brain health scientists, is also linked to developing memory problems and Alzheimer’s disease. Protect your brain from memory loss by warding off loneliness and leading a life with purpose and connection.
What is Loneliness?
Donna Munic-Miller, PhD, a psychologist at Cleveland Clinic Center for Brain Health, describes loneliness as a state of mind when a person feels isolated, unhappy with being alone, empty and unwanted. “You can be lonely when you are by yourself or be lonely in a middle of a crowd,” says Dr. Munic-Miller.
What is its Connection to Alzheimer’s disease?
Brain health scientists report that people with the most social interaction generally experience the slowest rate of memory decline. In a recent study of older people with no memory issues, researchers found that self-reported feelings of loneliness may possibly be a sign that changes are happening in the brain before symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear.
What Can You Do to Combat Feelings of Loneliness?
A rich social network provides sources of support, reduces stress, combats depression, and enhances intellectual stimulation – all vital to better brain health.
To help stay connected, Dr. Munic-Miller suggests:
- Reach out to a friend
- Reconnect with family members
- Get a pet (dog, cat, fish, etc.)
- Volunteer within your community
- Take a class where you can learn to draw, dance, or play an instrument
- Search for activities that you enjoy and involve other people, like book clubs, church groups, or educational classes
- Engage in physical activity with others, like walking groups, bowling teams, tennis, yoga, or water aerobics
- Journal (write down your thoughts)
For more tips, read about social interaction — one of the six pillars of brain health.