In “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,” author Haruki Murakami penned these words: “But even so, every now and then I would feel a violent stab of loneliness. The very water I drink, the very air I breathe, would feel like long, sharp needles. The pages of a book in my hands would take on the threatening metallic gleam of razor blades. I could hear the roots of loneliness creeping through me when the world was hushed at four o’clock in the morning.”
Another author, John O’Donohue, wrote in “Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom,” this statement: “There is solitude of suffering, when you go through darkness that is lonely, intense, and terrible words become powerless to express your pain; what others hear from your words is so distant and different from what you are actually suffering.”
Breathes there a man with soul so dead so never experience loneliness. May Sarton describes loneliness as “the poverty of self.” Charles Bukowski, in “Love Is a Dog from Hell,” wrote: “There is loneliness in this world so great that you can see it in the slow movement of the hands of a clock.”
Loneliness is not good for your health. As award-winning actress Audrey Hepburn once pointed out: “When you have nobody you can make a cup of tea for, when nobody needs you, that’s when I think life is over.”
If too much love can kill you, so goes a line of a song, so it loneliness. In fact, a recent study compared loneliness to that of obesity. “The research, presented at the American Psychological Association, proved that loneliness and isolation have now been considered as a public health concern as they have caused a number of premature deaths in 300,000 participants of 148 studies,” the article said.
For the information of uninformed, loneliness in the said study pertains not only in the state of being single but also social isolation and living alone. Virginia Woolf, in “The Waves,” gave us some insight: “Alone, I often fall down into nothingness. I must push my foot stealthily lest I should fall off the edge of the world into nothingness. I have to bang my head against some hard door to call myself back to the body.”
According to the study, those who had greater social connections were recorded to have 50% reduced risk of dying, where death caused by obesity only at 30%. About 70 studies were done; some 3.4 million people in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia participated in the study. Results echoed the same findings.
Obesity, by the way, means having too much body fat. It is different from being overweight, which means weighing too much. The weight may come from muscle, bone, fat, and/or body water. Both terms mean that a person’s weight is greater than what’s considered healthy for his or her height.
Now, going back to the study of loneliness. Principal author Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad of Brigham Young University said “self-reported feeling of loneliness (subjective) and the state of being socially isolated (objective) potentially damaging.”
“People who say they are alone but feel happy are at increased risk of death, as are those who have many social connections but they say they are lonely,” Dr. Holt-Lunstad was quoted as saying.
The report said that social media, technology, and even housing arrangements are the culprits of the increasing rates of loneliness among adolescents and the elderly.
“While most feel more ‘connected’ through social media platforms, these, however, are depriving humans of creating substantive and quality relationships due to the lack of physical and meaningful interactions,” the report said.
Among the elderly, housing arrangements plays a big role in loneliness. “Their loneliness might be triggered by the death of a spouse, children moving away, loss of network, fear of becoming a burden, fear of going out, and illness (examples: cancer and Alzheimer’s disease),” the report said.
The report ended with this statement: “Theories suggest that these findings might be linked with how depression and anxiety are both cause of premature deaths, as loneliness and isolations are two of the symptoms that catalyzes the mental illnesses.”
How do you fight loneliness? There was this story of 41-year-old Marc Austin, who has a heart condition which contributed to feelings of loneliness and low self-confidence. He had a heart attack in 2010 that left him with heart failure. Today, he is loving with a pacemaker to correct an abnormal heart rhythm.
“I was only 37,” he told “Heart Matter Magazine,” “and the fittest I’d ever been, so it came as a huge shock. I did feel isolated because of my heart problems, specially being so young. I was living on my own and I didn’t know anyone else my age with a heart condition.”
Marc joined a fundraising group because he thought it was a support group. “I soon realized it wasn’t, but they were all so friendly I thought I might as well stay,” he was quoted as saying. “It feels like a way of putting a positive spin on what I have been through and giving something back.”
Don’t be lonely throughout your life. Get out and find someone you can help, love, or talk with. Again, here’s a thought from Murakami: “I’m tired of living unable to love anyone. I don’t have a single friend – not one. And, worst of all, I can’t even love myself. Why is that? Why can’t I love myself? It’s because I can’t love anyone else. A person learns how to love himself through the simple acts of loving and being loved by someone else. Do you understand what I am saying? A person who is incapable of loving another cannot properly love himself.”
Remember, the opposite of loneliness is happiness. Try to be happy and beat loneliness. Elizabeth Gilbert, in “Eat, Pray, Love,” advised: “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieve a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”