Meridian Star


June 2, 2013

Feeling lonely and blue?

MERIDIAN — There are certain topics people do not easily admit to knowing anything about, having never experienced them on their own or admitting to. Some are: mental illness, loneliness, irritable bowel syndrome, or infidelity.

    Did you know there are people in this world who still believe that men walking on the moon was a Hollywood production? And others who think that someone with a mental disorder is faking it for attention. In this country we all have a right to believe what we will, or what our friends believe. Generally on our own we need to be wholeheartedly convinced.

    Meridian Activity Center’s yoga instructor, Pat Wilson, finds interesting articles to send to me. This one she sent to me because I’d mentioned I had been feeling lonely of late and the first part of the article deals with overeating, how one can binge eat when feeling lonely. The article continues to another topic of interest: I’ve been hearing about inflammation on television programs and now in this New York Times article about loneliness:

    Lisa Jaremka, a postdoctoral fellow at Ohio State University, reported in January at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology that people who are lonely have higher levels of antibodies to certain herpes viruses, indicating more activated viruses in their systems. In another study, she found higher levels of inflammation-inducing substances in the blood of lonely people. Chronic inflammation has been linked to heart disease, arthritis, Type 2 diabetes and even suicide attempts. Dr. Jaremka noted: People who are lonely also react more strongly to negative events and perceive daily life as being more stressful, which can depress the immune system.

    Another study at the University of California found that those who were lonely were more likely to develop difficulties performing activities of daily living like bathing and dressing, using their arms and shoulders, climbing stairs and walking. Loneliness was also associated with an increased risk of death during the study period! (I imagine that focusing on one’s loneliness in a long study might make one wish for release!)

    Seriously, though, we’ve all wondered about how someone we know seems to just "give up." What is involved in that resignation, when a friend or relative just takes to their chair in front of the TV? And, are we now talking about depression or loneliness? Whether we take a pill to work on depression or become more motivated to be more social and volunteer at a soup kitchen to work on loneliness ... we cannot deny that what is missing is a strong emotional connection. People are fundamentally social beings who require meaningful connections with others to maximize health and well-being. A person in a bad marriage may feel lonelier with the wrong partner than living alone and having a strong group of friends.

    One of the writers suggested reaching out to others with "random acts of kindness," such as helping someone with their groceries, leaving change behind in a coffee machine – I’ve heard of drivers in the drive-thru at a fast food restaurant paying for the person behind them! I recall being very shy in seventh grade and my friend telling me to "just compliment them on their outfit" and thinking "How shallow." But it worked, putting others and myself at ease with a smile.

    My suggestion at this time is to visit the Meridian Activity Center in June— just take a walk through both buildings and see what people are doing. Don’t worry about interrupting a class, teachers have been made aware of visitors coming into their class this summer. Monday night is our one late day for classes, we go until 8:30 p.m.

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