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The Solution to Millennial Loneliness

How do we stop being so lonely?

On a cold, moonless night, the co-owner of Macy’s department store and his wife were aboard the sinking Titanic. Mrs. Straus distributed blankets to the women and children in Life Boat No. 8. But, when asked to enter the lifeboat herself, she refused to leave Mr. Straus’s side. “All these years we have traveled together, and shall we part now? No, our fate is one,” she explained. Two sailors tried to force her in, and she wrangled herself free, looking at her husband. “Where you go, I go,” she said. The couple was last seen arm in arm on the deck, the finale of their forty years together.

Today, a different sentiment dominates. It’s closer to, “Where you go, I might consider visiting.” The individual comes first.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about why millennials are lonely. In short, it’s because loneliness is contagious (literally), and the internet exacerbates it. Our “infectious isolation,” I concluded, is mounting.

This is problematic for lots of reasons: In animals, social isolation shortens lifespan, promotes obesity and diabetes, hinders psychosexual development, and increases cortisol levels. In humans, social isolation has, according to Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, “an impact on health comparable to the effect of high blood pressure, lack of exercise, obesity or smoking.” Socially isolated people are more than twice as likely to die of heart disease. They’re also more stressed, less creative, have lower self-esteem, and feel less in control of their lives than non-lonely people.

So how do we stop being lonely?

I think the answer starts with priorities. Social connection has become less important to us. One large cross-sectional study found that subjective loneliness actually declined slightly between 1978 and 2009 in adolescents, while objective social isolation increased. High school students in 2009, the study’s authors write, “reported fewer friends with whom to interact, but less desire for more friends.” Meanwhile, empathy decreased, and insecure attachments increased.

This is consistent with my own experience. Since graduating college, I’ve put friendships on the back burner. I even emailed someone wanting to grab coffee a couple months ago that “I’m just incapable of making friends right now. There’s a little too much going on with work.” The fact that today many people’s best friends are from college may attest to the amount of effort we put into friendships after college.

When I was suffering from a bout of loneliness last year, my boyfriend told me to just go out and meet people. Well, I’m not that lonely, I thought. But recovering from our society-wide isolation will require effort.

Just meeting people, however, isn’t enough. We also need to sacrifice for them. In response to my last article, several readers pointed out that trust is missing from many modern friendships. I think trust is the feeling that someone has your back no matter what. And, today, the truth is very few people do.

In a 2012 op-ed for the New York Times, Sherry Turkle wrote that we’re “increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship.” Millennials may be lonely not just from insufficient social interaction, but also due to insufficient social obligation.

Generational researcher Jean Twenge has found that millennials are significantly more likely than adolescents in the 1970s to describe themselves using traits like “independent” and “assertive.” The resulting gains from this attitude are real, and shouldn’t be discounted — particularly for women. But it’s also, in a way, too bad.

My friends and I have talked about how you never know whether to stay in a city, because your friends could leave soon for some better job somewhere else. If you stayed, hoping they’d stick around, you’re SOL. (Even the prospect that you’d consider them before your career is embarrassing.) Our solution to get everyone to stay put, we joke, is to build a commune. But we know that will never happen. And we know, if we get a better opportunity elsewhere, we’ll leave.

Our commune dream is for something quasi-contractual to keep us together. This is also why, though millennials are marrying later, many of us quietly crave a ring. But marriage, indeed, is a perfect example of our stubborn determination to be a, or at least give, the bird: we’re marrying later — by an average of six years since 1960 — to extend our geographic and professional autonomy.

Amazingly, research has found that attachment to even just a place reduces loneliness. If everyone decided to remain in the same city or town for a lifetime, as they did for centuries before now, we’d receive the two best remedies for loneliness: a home and a community.

I know that’s unrealistic. But before genuine connection sinks altogether, it’s worth thinking about what such a loss would actually mean. Seventeenth-century English poet John Donne wrote that, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.” We like to believe we’re floating free. But we need each other, and acting otherwise results more in isolation than true independence.

A version of this article originally appeared on Forbes.
Apr 25, 2017    Caroline Beaton      The Gen-Y Guide


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Is Living Alone the Unlikely Answer to Loneliness?

New research shows that people who live alone are less lonely.

The authors of the book Loneliness describe their concern that Western societies do not take the inherent gregariousness of humans seriously enough. They note that “the latest figures show that ever-greater numbers of people are accepting a life in which they are physically, and perhaps emotionally, isolated from one another.” Among the evidence they cite in support of that fear is the growing number of people who live alone.

It seems intuitive that people who live alone would be lonelier than people who live with others. Most single people do not live alone, yet single people are believed to be lonelier than married people. I’ve found evidence of this in my own research, and researchers in other countries have as well.

A new study of loneliness, based on a large sample of German adults, examined the links among loneliness, living alone, and living single. The research was based on data collected in 2013 from more than 16,000 Germans ranging in age from 18 to 103, who represented more than 10,000 households.

The authors found that when they compared people who lived alone to people who lived with others—focusing on that key aspect of their living arrangement and not letting other factors muddy the picture—the people who lived alone were less lonely.

They also tried to make the case that single people are lonelier, and seemed to imply that if they were to get married, their loneliness would subside. But they ended up showing that they really don’t understand basic methodologies, and that they don’t appreciate, psychologically, how the experience of living single after you get divorced or become widowed could profoundly differ from the experience of living single all your life.

Loneliness and Living Alone: The Link Is Not What You Think

When the authors simply compared the people who lived alone with those who lived with others, the people who lived alone reported more loneliness. But people who live alone differ from the people who live with others in all sorts of ways, so we don’t know, without looking more closely, if living alone really is linked with greater loneliness.

Fortunately, the authors took this step. They found that one way people who live alone differ from others is in their income. So they controlled for income statistically, which means that they essentially compared people at the same level of income to see how loneliness differed between those living alone and those living with others.

Here’s what they found: When people who live alone have the same income as people living with others, the people who live alone are less lonely.

The authors conclude that “living alone may even have beneficial effects on the quality of one’s social relationships” and add, as researchers often do, that more research is needed. Many studies already show the ways in which single people are more connected to other people than married people are, and demonstrate that it is the people who marry, rather than those who stay single, who become more insular.

The research does not show that living alone is a cure for loneliness. Among the people who live alone are those (we don’t know exactly how many) who chose to live that way. If people who prefer living with other people were urged to live alone, we don’t know what would happen. Maybe they would make an effort to form and maintain the kinds of social ties that keep loneliness at bay. Or maybe they would just end up lonely.

The Link Between Loneliness and Single Life

The authors used their data to compare three groups:

  • People who are single and not living with a partner;
  • People who have a romantic partner but are not living together; and
  • People who are living with a romantic partner (and are often married).

They seem to think they know what they are going to find, because in their view, previous research shows that, “Being married is robustly associated with lower levels of loneliness.” They report that in their own research, “average loneliness levels were highest among singles and lowest among those living with their partners.”

The implication seems to be that if only those single people would get married, their loneliness would dissipate. The authors never quite say that married people are less lonely because they are married, but that seems to be the implication.

The problem is, neither their data, nor the data from the previous research they cite, could ever establish that getting married causes people to be less lonely. In fact, the design of the studies and the comparisons they use are a set-up, biased to make married people look less lonely than they really are. The studies compare only people who are currently married (or living with a romantic partner) to those who are single. They set aside all of the people who got married, felt desperately lonely in their marriage, and then got divorced. No, wait—the authors of this paper did not set them aside. If the people who got divorced are still single, the authors included them in the single group, along with the lifelong single people.

And what about people who are widowed, and who may indeed feel deeply lonely without their spouse? They are also included in the group of lifelong single people.

Here’s what their data really show: If you include all of the people who are widowed (and may well be quite lonely) in the group of single people, as well as all of the people who chose to marry but then divorced (and may also be feeling lonely on their own after having been married), then the people who are left in the married group are less lonely than the people who were included in the single group. But does that mean that if all the single people got married, they would become less lonely? No, the research does not show that at all.

In fact, even by using the technique that gives married people a great big unfair advantage, the results were a lot less definitive than the authors expected. When they looked separately at three age groups, they found that romantic relationship status didn’t matter among the adults younger than 30. People who were living with a romantic partner (and often married), people who had a partner but were not living with that partner, and people who were single (with no romantic partner) all experienced about the same levels of loneliness. Among those older than 65, the singles were a bit lonelier, but the differences were small. Only among the middle-aged group (ages 30-65) were the people living with romantic partners noticeably less lonely than the single people.

The article could leave readers with the impression that those people were less lonely because they were married (or cohabiting). An alternative possibility is that the married group looks less lonely because so many of the people who were lonely in their marriages got divorced (and then the authors put them in with the lifelong single people). The article doesn’t discuss the fact that the single group also includes people who are widowed, and are probably lonely because they miss their spouse. The implication seems to be that being single means you’re lonely, and if you’re married, you’re not lonely.

I want you to think smarter than that.

When the authors state in their article abstract that the “late-life increase in loneliness could be explained by…higher proportion of singles in this age group,” the implication seems to be that single means lonely. That might lead you to think, “Oh those poor old people, they are lonely because they are single.” But maybe they are lonely because so many of them are widowed. Maybe they spent so many years of their lives married that they don’t know how to lead a full, rich, socially connected life as a single person. And maybe lifelong single people do know how to do that.

Actually, there’s no need to qualify that last statement with a “maybe.” We already know, from lots of research, that lifelong single people have more friends than married people, and do more to maintain their ties with friends, siblings, parents, and neighbors. It is when people get married that they turn inward and pay less attention to the other people in their lives.

Clinging to Ideology, Not Facts

  • The arguments in the article seem to be rooted in an ideology of marriage, which maintains that just about everyone wants to marry and that people who get married are better off physically, psychologically, and interpersonally than they were when they were single. I believe this because of the way the authors talk about single people and partnered people. For example:
  • When discussing loneliness in older people, they say that “the absence of a significant attachment figure (spouse, partner)” is important. Do you see what’s wrong with that? This suggests that only a spouse or romantic partner counts as a significant attachment figure. No matter how close you may be to a lifelong friend, a sibling, or anyone else; and no matter if your relationship with another person meets all the criteria for an attachment relationship, your attachment figure is not considered a significant one if that person is not a spouse or romantic partner.
  • The authors say that “the formation of an intimate relationship and partnership in young adults is a developmental accomplishment.” It is, if that’s what you want.  But not everyone wants that. There are young adults (and adults of every age) who are uninterested in that goal. In this article, marriage is portrayed as an accomplishment. That’s an ideological assumption, but it is stated more like a fact — and this is in a scientific publication.

When the authors find, to their surprise, that romantic relationship status has nothing to do with loneliness among adults younger than the age of 30, they try to explain it this way: “[Y]ounger people can compensate for the absence of a romantic partner through a larger social network in both private and professional life.” The key word is “compensate.” It reveals the assumption that romantic relationships matter more than any other relationships, to all people, and therefore if adults do not have such a relationship, they need to compensate for that somehow.

The compensation assumption is especially remarkable in light of the authors’ own findings. Relationship status did not matter as much as they thought it would. Results were not consistent across the three age groups, and they did not mean what the authors said they did. But another factor matters, in predictable ways, and in consistent ways across the three age groups: having friends.

What’s more, there was no undermining the importance of friendship, no matter how the authors analyzed the data. People with more friends were less lonely. The results were that simple. But nowhere do we learn anything about how people need to compensate for not having friends.

Bella DePaulo Ph.D.   Living Single   Sep 26, 2016


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Fun Fact Friday

  • Hitting snooze on your alarm can make you more tired than if you had gotten up right away.

  • We are subconsciously more attracted to people who have the same taste in music as we do.

  • Warm colors such as yellow, orange and red make you hungry – Which is why many fast food restaurants are yellow, orange and red.

  • Couples who spend at least 10 minutes a day laughing together are more likely to have a stronger relationship.

Happy Friday!
 source:   factualfacts.com   https://twitter.com/Fact   @Fact


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This 75-Year Harvard Study Found the 1 Secret to Leading a Fulfilling Life

Here’s some wisdom gleaned from one of the longest longitudinal studies ever conducted.

Prioritizing what’s important is challenging in today’s world. The split focus required to maintain a career and a home, not to mention a Facebook feed, can feel overwhelming.

Enter the science of what to prioritize, when.

For over 75 years, Harvard’s Grant and Glueck study has tracked the physical and emotional well-being of two populations: 456 poor men growing up in Boston from 1939 to 2014 (the Grant Study), and 268 male graduates from Harvard’s classes of 1939-1944 (the Glueck study).

Due to the length of the research period, this has required multiple generations of researchers. Since before WWII, they’ve diligently analyzed blood samples, conducted brain scans (once they became available), and pored over self-reported surveys, as well as actual interactions with these men, to compile the findings.

The conclusion? According to Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one thing surpasses all the rest in terms of importance:

“The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

Not how much is in your 401(k). Not how many conferences you spoke at–or keynoted. Not how many blog posts you wrote or how many followers you had or how many tech companies you worked for or how much power you wielded there or how much you vested at each.

No, the biggest predictor of your happiness and fulfillment overall in life is, basically, love.

Specifically, the study demonstrates that having someone to rely on helps your nervous system relax, helps your brain stay healthier for longer, and reduces both emotional as well as physical pain.

The data is also very clear that those who feel lonely are more likely to see their physical health decline earlier and die younger.

“It’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship,” says Waldinger. “It’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.”

What that means is this: It doesn’t matter whether you have a huge group of friends and go out every weekend or if you’re in a “perfect” romantic relationship (as if those exist). It’s the quality of the relationships–how much vulnerability and depth exists within them; how safe you feel sharing with one another; the extent to which you can relax and be seen for who you truly are, and truly see another.

According to George Vaillant, the Harvard psychiatrist who directed the study from 1972 to 2004, there are two foundational elements to this: “One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”

Thus, if you’ve found love (in the form of a relationship, let’s say) but you undergo a trauma like losing a job, losing a parent, or losing a child, and you don’t deal with that trauma, you could end up “coping” in a way that pushes love away.

This is a very good reminder to prioritize not only connection but your own capacity to process emotions and stress. If you’re struggling, get a good therapist. Join a support group. Invest in a workshop. Get a grief counselor. Take personal growth seriously so you are available for connection.

Because the data is clear that, in the end, you could have all the money you’ve ever wanted, a successful career, and be in good physical health, but without loving relationships, you won’t be happy.

The next time you’re scrolling through Facebook instead of being present at the table with your significant other, or you’re considering staying late at the office instead of getting together with your close friend, or you catch yourself working on a Saturday instead of going to the farmer’s market with your sister, consider making a different choice.

“Relationships are messy and they’re complicated,” acknowledges Waldinger. But he’s adamant in his research-backed assessment:
“The good life is built with good relationships.”

By Melanie Curtin     Writer, activist        @melaniebcurtin
source: www.inc.com


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8 Brutally Honest Truths You Need To Hear If You Want To Get It Together

No matter how much we believe we have it together, life carries many harsh truths, and no matter how much we may wish to run away from them, it is only through accepting them that we can take full responsibility for our lives.

You may be aware of some of these already, but for the rest, I’m willing to be the blunt bastard that tells them to you. You may hate me today, but you’ll thank me tomorrow.

For the record, this isn’t meant to be a pessimistic rant about how tough life is. It’s meant to motivate you to take action armed with this knowledge.

Here are 8 brutally honest truths you need to hear if you want to get it together:

1. You’re Going to Regret How Much Time You Spend on Social Media

Social media is amazing, and I’m as addicted to it as you are. But social media is also making us all more disconnected than we’ve ever been before through the illusion of increased connection. Yes, we are able to communicate with thousands of people with ease, but with what depth?

Social media is robbing way too many of us of real connection and real life experiences. Rather than looking at the world as we walk somewhere or ride public transit, we regress to what the digital world has to offer. If our addiction level stays the same, things could become really scary, and this doesn’t even take into account the potential repercussions of so much exposure to technology.

2. Your Reactions Are the Problem

Yes, shit happens. And quite often that shit really sucks to have to go through or deal with. But regardless of how challenging something is, it’s always our reaction to it that will dictate how much it is going to impact our lives.

You decide how much, and for how long, getting cut off on the highway is going to piss you off, and you decide how much someone’s poor opinion of you is going to make you shell up in insecurity. Let your natural reactions happen, but then consciously choose how long you want to let them impact everything else.

3. The Riskiest Thing You Can Do Is Avoid Risks

Whether or not you consider yourself a risk-seeker, there is nothing more risky than complacency. I’m not suggesting that you cannot get to a point where you are truly happy with your life and therefore simply want to sustain that lifestyle, but I’m suggesting that never taking any risks is about as dangerous as it gets.

Stop playing small if you know you want to play big, and stop telling yourself “this is good enough” if you know deep down you would love to do, create, and have so much more. The cost of taking that risk is your long-term happiness.

4. You Should Always Have Enough Money for What Matters

“I would love to attend that seminar or buy that course that can change my life, but money is too tight right now.” As true as that may be, you should always have more than enough to do the things that really matter.

The biggest obstacle is the way we instead spend it on the things that don’t. We don’t process buying a $7 premium coffee daily as an investment in nothing, but we do overthink and see spending a couple hundred dollars on something life-changing as too much. I’m not suggesting we start spending recklessly, or never treat ourselves, but rather that we do reassess how we currently spend our money.

5. People Are Going to Hate You No Matter What You Do

You can try and people please your entire life, but no matter what, some people are always going to dislike you. So rather than wasting your time trying to match what you think is the most acceptable, spend that time accepting exactly who you are.

6. Blaming Only Makes You Weaker

In the moment, to unjustly direct blame towards a circumstance or other person may seem relieving, but in the long term it really takes its toll. The less you take responsibility for your actions and decision making, the weaker you become mentally.

Taking responsibility may come with some immediate repercussions, but over time, it builds a life founded on honesty, and it strengthens your ability to tackle challenges when they do arise.

7. People Don’t Think of You as Much as You Think They Do

From our perspective, the whole world revolves around us, but there are 7 billion people who see it the same way. While we are not all inherently selfish or self-obsessed, we are all far more concerned with how we are perceived by others than how we perceive them.

So once again, embrace your true self and find peace in knowing that people are too concerned with themselves to give you as much as attention as you think they are.

8. Not Even the Perfect Relationship Is Going to Complete You

I have close friends whose long-term romantic relationships I not only admire, but also hope to one day experience. But even they, who seem to have found “the one,” recognize that true happiness comes from within and can never be filled in by another.

Relationships are an extension of our happiness and not the basis of it, so focus on strengthening the one with yourself and all of the others will follow accordingly.

Previously published by Thought Catalog at http://www.thoughtcatalog.com
MARK DENICOLA    JUNE 13, 2017


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Fun Fact Friday

  • Stephen Hawking was told that he had two years to live by doctors back in 1963. Today, he’s alive and is 72-years-old.

  • 71% of breakups happen because of mood swings.

 

 

  • Banana is a happy fruit. Eating just one can help relieve irritable emotions, anger and or depression.

  • It only takes one lie to completely change a person’s perception of who you are.

Happy Friday!
 source:   factualfacts.com   https://twitter.com/Fact   @Fact


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A Simple Way To Boost Social Confidence

An easy self-affirmation exercise helps reduce social insecurities for at least two months.

Sometimes in life we get exactly what we expect.

Nowhere is this more true than in social relations.

When we meet someone new, if we expect to like them—for whatever reason—then they tend to like us.

If we experience apprehension or nascent dislike then things can quickly go wrong.

Psychologists have called it the ‘acceptance prophecy’ and there’s more about it in this article: The Acceptance Prophecy: How You Control Who Likes You.

The problem is that for insecure or socially nervous individuals it becomes the rejection prophecy.

A feeling of apprehension about meeting new people is outwardly expressed as nervous behaviour and this leads to rejection.

But a new paper published in Psychological Science provides a simple exercise that helps boost relational security and should help turn the rejection prophecy back into the acceptance prophecy.

 

Self-affirmation

Stinson et al. (2011) measured the relational security of 117 participants by asking them how much they agreed with statements like: “My friends regard me as very important in their lives” and “My partner loves and accepts me unconditionally”.

Half of them were then asked to do a very simple self-affirmation task.

Participants looked down a list of 11 values including things like spontaneity, creativity, friends and family, personal attractiveness and so on.

They put them in order of importance and wrote a couple of paragraphs saying why their top-ranked item was so important.

The results showed that this simple task boosted the relational security of insecure individuals in comparison with a control group.

Afterwards their behaviour was seen as less nervous and they reported feeling more secure.

And when they were followed up at four and eight weeks later, the benefits were still apparent.

It appears that even a task as simple as this is enough to boost the social confidence of people who feel insecure.

source: PsyBlog