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How Loneliness Hurts Hearts, Minds and Lives

By Sandy Schroeder

You may have seen the impact of loneliness in your own family. When a parent or aunt or uncle loses their spouse, life may suddenly slow down and then abruptly stop as loneliness strikes.

Prevention tells us the impact of loneliness is much stronger than most people think. Often it impacts life just like a serious disease does. Lacking social connections is now considered more dangerous than heavy smoking. Daily contacts with family and friends are just as important as a good diet, rest at night and regular exercise.  When we have a healthy circle of interaction, we may take it for granted, but when we lose it we may find ourselves on treacherous ground.

How to Help With Loneliness

As you move through the holidays and see your friends and family, watch for signs of loneliness. When there is a loss among family or friends, reach out to help.

You may see subtle signs of sadness such as impulsiveness, weight gain or loss of interest in normal routines. Reach out but don't overwhelm them or make them feel like a charity case.

Introduce them to new friends - Invite them to join you in local groups and then follow through to make the events work.

Suggest pets - If you think the person might enjoy the company of a pet, invite them to visit the shelters or read the ads to give a pet a home. Or invite them along to help at an animal shelter. 

Make time to listen - Invite them to lunch or dinner and make time to just talk. In the process, really listen to what they are saying about their needs and their life. 

Ask for their help - Show them how valuable they are by asking their advice on cooking, hobbies, crafts or work.

Encourage them to keep moving - When a loss occurs, people often forget to go to the gym or follow through with daily walks. Invite them to join you and be the workout buddy that keeps them active.

Surprise them with attention - Drop by on the weekend with cookies and spend some time talking. Once the commotion of losing someone subsides, people often forget to include the bereaved person in regular activities.

Help them find hobbies - Sometimes when a person loses a spouse, life has been totally filled with caring for that person, and then suddenly everything stops. Now there is too much time available. Help them fill the gap, taking community classes, visiting museums or exploring bookstores.

You may not see results immediately, but you can be sure your efforts will be appreciated. Keep showing up, watch for smiles and know that what you are doing is crucial to their health and happiness.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Chula Vista, Calif.

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