By Megan Flemmit, Photography by Unsplash
Winter is coming, and it’s bringing its best friends cold and flu along with it.
While you’re stocking up on your usual supply of cold medication, you might also want to take a look at your mental state and assess the quality of your friendships. A new study published in the Health Psychology journal suggests that people who feel lonely tend to experience more severe symptoms of the common cold than those who were socially fulfilled.
Researchers from Rice University gathered 159 people, aged between 18-55, isolated them in a hotel for five days and gave them cold inducing-nasal drops.
READ MORE: The Perks Of Being Social This Season
Participants were scored in advance on the Short Loneliness Scale and the Social Network Index. After monitoring the participants over five days researchers discovered that those who were lonely were no more likely to get a cold than those who had a strong social network.
Not all of the participants became sick. Those who did, and were screened as lonely, reported a greater severity of cold-related symptoms.
The researchers noted a distinction between feeling lonely and actual social isolation. “This paper is about the quality of your relationships, not the quantity,” says graduate student Angie LeRoy, co-author of the study. “You can be in a crowded room and feel lonely. That perception is what seems to be important when it comes to these cold symptoms.”
Co-author of the study, Chris Fagundes, suggested that doctors take psychological factors into consideration when treating patients. “It would definitely help them understand the phenomenon when the person comes in sick,” he commented.
Beat The Loneliness
LeRoy suggested that individuals should strive to be more socially active. “If you build those networks — consistently working on them and your relationships — when you do fall ill, it may not feel so bad.”
If you don’t want to feel as though you’re at deaths door each time you get sick, try these three things to kick loneliness to the curb:
Be Kind To Yourself: When you’re feeling lonely, your self-worth is at an all time low. Get rid of all that negative self-talk, and replace it with positive affirmation. Even if you don’t believe it at first, keep repeating it. Once you feel positive it’ll be easier to reach out to others.
Reach out: You don’t have to discuss your innermost thoughts with a psychologist. Talking to a friend or a family member about their pet works just as well. The important thing is to connect with someone.
Get a hobby: Join a gym or go to a cooking class or book club. Determine what your interests are and make it social. It’s easier to bond with people when you have a shared interest.
Grab a partner and fight loneliness while sculpting flat-abs with this super fun tummy toning workout courtesy of Amanda DuPont.