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Loneliness Is Contagious

Many of us wish for alone time, but sometimes we get what we wish for and then some. Loneliness is not defined by physical isolation because one can feel alone in a crowd at or a party, but rather it is an emotional distance usually self-imposed due to depression, negativity, or shyness. Many people who feel lonely never admit that they are lonely because loneliness carries the connotation of being a “loser.” A recent study by John Cacioppo in an article published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology claims that like happiness, loneliness is contagious. And interesting to note: women are more likely to catch loneliness from other lonely people.

Don’t underestimate the role stress plays in loneliness. Stress makes us feel irritable, abrupt and capable of road rage – road rage doesn’t only happen on the road, but also happens in our interactions with other people. Our perception of people and our compassion for them correlates directly to how we feel about ourselves. If we are negative and lack self-confidence, then our perception of friends, colleagues and family will be less kind. "When you feel lonely, you have more negative interactions than non-lonely people," says Cacioppo. "If you're in a more negative mood, you're more likely to interact with someone else in a more negative way, and that person is more likely to interact in a negative way."

Of course, you can always call on a positive friend to get you out of a bad mood. However, if you feel distant and distressed, you could be hostile to your friend and alienate him or her or bring that friend down with you. What can you do to feel less lonely?

Here’s what two people did with their loneliness:
Willard Wigan felt less than other children. He couldn’t keep up with other children at school and was doing poorly academically. So he hid out in a shed to avoid going to school. While alone, he noticed some ants on the ground. He began to envision their world, their little city. This led to a series of amazing creative endeavors – building an artistic microscopic world – literally using a shard of glass, a hair and a fiber as tools. When asked about his now famous miniscule art, literally on top of a pin, he said, “Just because you can’t see what’s there, doesn’t mean it isn’t.” Less can become more.

Emmanuel Jal was a child soldier in the Sudan. He lived among the dead and played dead in order to survive the cruel and abrupt loss of family members, friends and community. Miraculously, he was physically rescued. However, it was music which has redeemed his spirit; he calls music, “his heaven.” Nowadays as a hip-hop artist/poet, his body has become his instrument to reconnect with humanity. He is determined to help others in similar situations.
For more information on managing your stress and reclaiming your life read my book, Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show





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