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Feeling isolated or lonely lately, if so, here's some sobering news.

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A Guardian article (Feb. 17, 2014) says that loneliness is killing more people than obesity and other poor health behaviors and doctors are now warning lonely people that feeling isolated can disrupt sleep, raise blood pressure, weaken immunity, increase depression and lower subjective well being, making them nearly twice as likely to die prematurely as those who do not suffer feelings of isolation. Loneliness is killing us – we must start treating this disease

Certainly, there are many reasons to feel lonely... some valid, like when someone or something important leaves your life. But there are also those people who reject others or behave in a way that naturally brings loneliness. Some are lonely because their company is unbearable, and others because of shyness and social anxiety, all of which renders them ever lonelier still.

And, I suppose everyone has periods when they would rather not bother with others. We all have had times when we didn't feel social and avoided or skipped out on social events. Yet, regular avoidance of social interaction with associates and/or friends should sound an alarm, because this could cause unwanted future isolation by reducing your chances of being invited again.

But it's not just being physical isolated from others, there is a mental aspect to loneliness. You can easily be out with ten or twenty people and still feel lonely... like you're not really present and nobody would notice if you slipped off at a moment's notice. Of course that's not really true, it's only what you think.

And there are also times when you're your own best company and though alone... you're not lonely.

So, there's much more to being lonely than being alone. We all feel lonely at times, but loneliness is hard to define. It's fundamentally about emptiness, absence and longing... the feeling that something or someone is missing from your life. And that could be anything... a piece of you, a romantic partner, a friend, a sense of confidence or place and even a feeling of purpose.

So if you're feeling lonely ask yourself what's missing from your life.

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