- The Asian Age
- 8 Feb 2018
- DR REKHA SHETTY The writer is the author of Everyday Happiness Mantras
There is a great book titled the Lonely Crowd, by David Riesman, highlighting the fact that one can be lonely despite being a part of a crowd. Loneliness is what you feel when you think no one cares about you. If you are rich and famous, can you escape loneliness? Celebrity suicides like Robin Williams, that leap out of the front page in every newspaper, prove that it is not so.
Imagine smoking 15 cigarettes every day. Loneliness has the same impact on your health. The whole thing seems like a vicious circle. If you are lonely you get sicker, if you are sick you feel even lonelier. Loneliness makes you vulnerable to a whole lot of health issues: heart disease, cancer, depression and dementia. The only antidote is of course close family ties and loving friends. People who care for you, listen to you and give you hugs when you need them. The wellness and happiness chemicals can keep loneliness at bay.
The loneliness epidemic helps us focus on the isolation that is felt, especially by elders. True happiness lies in helping others. It is also the antidote to loneliness as it releases serotonin in the blood. Billionaires give away their wealth to experience this spirit of joy that banishes loneliness. A networked life builds walls against loneliness. Oxytocin is released by hugs, especially the undeserved ones. It is enhanced by laughter, play and close interactions. Of course, endorphins released during exercising, particularly in groups, create an immediate and temporary high. Who can forget dopamine that is released as we achieve our dreams and goals. When one is awash in all four chemicals, one can swim in a sea of happiness and well being. So many things can help, especially when shared: food, music, exercise, conversation and singing are great ways to escape loneliness. “Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness,” writes Maya Angelou. All we want is to reach out and touch another human being not just with hands but with our hearts.
So reach out, build and connect. The more you enjoy high touch in this high tech world, the greater your chance of long term happiness!