I asked Rob to write an article on the effects of isolation and how we can deal. The results surprised us! Turns out being lonely isn't the worst of our concern. Find out more:
In 2016, the results from a large study indicated that there is a linear relationship between social isolation and mortality rate. In simpler terms, those who experience a greater lack of social interaction are more likely to die. A statement that may not sit well with most. Especially those who are practicing social distancing. Being told that you are more likely to die, when you are already at risk can increase stress. Add that to the rising pressure of quarantine itself;
Welcome, to 2020 the year it all ends!
Hold on, let's not get ahead of ourselves. We're not only going to discuss the relationship between social isolation and loneliness but also isolation and other factors of high mortality such as perceived health, drinking, lack of exercise and obesity. Just as isolation causes higher mortality, it also causes other health conditions which may also lead to higher mortality. This is most likely because individuals who experience a lack of social interaction also tend to exhibit poor habits and increased stress.
Human interaction and communication is the reason we are at the top of the food chain and there aren't many evolutionists that would argue that. Homo Sapiens are not fast or strong compared to the rest of the animal kingdom. Most of the human population wouldn't stand a chance against a large dog let alone the 400-pound lions our ancestors had to avoid in the savannas of Africa. Teamwork, collaboration, storytelling and exchange have been the basis of our survival for over 300,000 years. It is no wonder that we start to go off the rails when we're withdrawn from society.
Social isolation can feel like a "one-two punch" that will ultimately throw us into a tailspin of poor health. And without our friends, it seems we have nothing to base social norms and health habits off of. Being without our loved ones may leave us without emotional support and ultimately increased stress. Put it all together and you have the perfect formula for poor health both physically and emotionally. All in all, it is likely that isolation itself isn't the only thing to blame for higher mortality, rather a combination of isolation and the subsequent side effects that ultimately put us at risk. The preverbal chicken and the egg, except we know what came first - isolation.
Our findings are not promising for society at large when social isolation is essentially law. Quarantine 2020 is going to have lasting effects on only our economy and our overall health. Forcing someone into isolation may not kill them, but could start them on a path to develop the habits that will. It is more important now than ever to consider a plan of attack. We need to combat inevitable isolation but moreover, the unhealthy habits that come with it!
What can we do?
The sad thing about quarantine is we don't have any choice but to isolate from the outside world. From a health standpoint, it would be more irresponsible to go to a social gathering than to stay home right now. To help combat the wave of depression, sites like BetterHelp are offering free therapy sessions. Across social media platforms, health professionals are springing to action. The threat of isolation on our mental health is real and we need to make a conscious effort against it. Preventing depression and anxiety is not an easy task, but with a little conscious effort, you can make a difference in your mindset, your life and your daily routine.
*If a person is experiencing severe depression, panic attacks, and/or suicidal thoughts, then they need to reach out to a mental health professional.
While it is no secret that being active and healthy can substantially mitigate negative thought patterns, it can also very literally change the chemistry of your brain - for the better. With the current state of the world, it is imperative that we focus on establishing good habits that keep us off the couch and moving.
Establishing healthy habits is much easier said than done. It is especially difficult for those who haven't previously laid the foundation. So let's keep it real - No one is going to go into quarantine a couch potato and come out a fitness model. It is more practical to take this time to establish and complete small goals. It could be as small as staying hydrated or daily walks. The important thing is to build a routine that you can be mentally prepared for.
We may all be on different days or weeks of quarantine, but one commonality stands true - as humans we are all susceptible to the side effects of isolation. If you have let your health go to the wayside then this may be something you want to consider. Through all the doom and gloom one thing should stick out; poor health habits could afford you a shorter life. Hopefully, everyone wants to live a long life, but even so finding the motivation amongst the chaos is proven difficult but not impossible.
That's why it is so important to instill realistic, long-term healthy habits. You do not need to run a marathon to be healthy! And you don't need to be 300lbs to be unhealthy! Our health is thousands of small steps, small decisions and daily routines that add up. Instead of focusing on the big picture, find small ways to steadily improve your life. For both the average joe and your state-of-the-art meathead, staying hydrated, moving, and doing your best to control portions are going to be the ticket. For some, the difficulty is getting started and for others it may be staying the course. No matter what category you fall into, here are three strategies for starting and maintaining healthy habits.
If you want to make a healthy habit easier, stack it with something else you are doing. A technique used by a lot of productivity experts and are perfect for the quarantimes. This tactic is simple to employ too. Just take something that you already do, and then stack a habit before, after, or during that activity.
For instance, a lot of people are spending more time on the phone. Whether you are working from home or just trying to communicate with friends, there is more time that is perfect for stacking habits. Unless you need to take notes, use phone calls as a time to go for a walk or even just pace inside your house. Make it a rule that as soon as the phone rings, you stand up and start moving.
Stacking a habit before could look something like, drinking a full glass of water before every meal. Not during (there should still be healthy hydration involved), but doing it before forces a person to complete the task. The key is joining a healthy habit with something that is already happening in someone's day to day life.
The rule of two
The rule of two is simple, never do something terrible two times in a row. An easy thing to understand but harder to implement for people. The practice can apply to anything that would be best for the individual. For some, it may be no binging Netflix two nights in a row or making sure that all your bad meals have a healthy one in between. No matter what it is, the key here is to break the momentum of unhealthy habits.
From the reading above, one of the biggest takeaways is the fact that our behaviors are affected in isolation because there are no friends or family there to keep you from overindulging or underperforming. Having an accountability partner, even a digital one, is one of the best ways to stay active and healthy during this pandemic. The key is finding a person to rely on and hold an individual accountable. A person that can be trusted to give some tough love when needed and motivate at the right times.
It sounds complicated, but it as easy as reaching out to a friend and being honest about the situation. Even better, that person may find that their new accountability partner wants the same thing. Together both can create a system of healthy habits and accountability.
The accountability partner can be as simple as someone who randomly texts you workouts to do. For example, if you are trying to move more, the partner may text you at random points in the day and say things like "Do 20 Jumping jacks and send me a video" or "Drop down and give me as many pushups as possible, record and let me know how you did". The key here is there is not only a task but also a way to hold the other person accountable for achieving that task. Pictures and videos also help keep the momentum going for healthy habits in the future.
During a pandemic, it concerns a person to read a scientific paper that associates social isolation and loneliness to higher rates of mortality. A closer look into the research shows that social isolation is also related to all of the health markers that correlate to a high mortality rate. In this fact, there is solace for all people who aren't going to be socializing for the next month. With a focus on healthy habits, any person can mitigate the poor health markers that lead to a decline in health.
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