Loneliness is one of the most commonly reported emotional difficulty associated with depression. The question is, can loneliness actually contribute to or actually cause depression? The research lends itself to the answer “Yes”. People who have a small or non existent social support system report higher levels and more frequent bouts of depression than those with a substantial social life.
Interestingly, an active social life is a good predictor of emotional well being. People who regularly participate in socializing, whether it be going out to dinner or a movie, just hanging out with friends or participating in a hobby or activity are happier than those who do not. People who go to church or another form of worship with others also report a higher level of feeling as though they “belong” than those who don’t.
If you have grown up in a dysfunctional environment or one where socializing was not important, you may not have learned the value of an active support and social group. If you grew up in a family with a depressed parent or one with substance abuse issues you may have never been allowed to have friends over or go to activities with others. You most likely did not have other people over to your house. If you were excessively shy and not taught how to mix comfortably with peers you may still feel uncomfortable around others. These habits once learned often carry over into your own adult life.
Belonging is one of the most basic needs of human beings. When this need is not met it is very difficult to continue to develop and thrive in the world around us. We are social creatures by nature. You don’t need to feel that you have to have 20 or 30 people around you at all times but pulling together a “tribe” of your own is important. It can be a tribe of 5 or 10.
There are those that will argue that when they are depressed they just cant get out and socialize, it is too demanding. I know it feels like that but it is one of those cases where you really have to try to force yourself. The rewards far outweigh the unpleasant initial effort. Then force yourself some more. Keep forcing till it becomes a habit, once is not enough. The social belonging combined with the act of being busy and productive is a magical elixir.
If you are on medications that make you feel so lethargic that you cant get out of your house then talk to your doctor. They need to be made aware of this and can most likely tweak something for you to give you more energy. Your quality of life is very important and you and your doctor are a team in making it the best it can possibly be.
While you are out socializing do not focus on depression. Keep this socializing separate from any support groups you may attend or other things related to being depressed. Challenge yourself with something fun and new.
Depression involves many aspects of your psyche and they can take time to work out. Loneliness is only one piece of the puzzle but it can be huge. Self esteem problems, grief, feelings of worthlessness and fear are usually lurking there as well. The good news is that once you find the right formula for you you can start feeling better and more hopeful right away. Depression tends to steal away hope over time and it is important not to allow it to win that battle. Start with a small piece and keep chipping away at it. I always encourage clients to start with the social piece as it is the most fun and works the fastest.
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Feel Good For Life!!