What does loneliness actually mean?

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The term, according to the on-line Free Dictionary is as follows:

lone·ly (lnl)

adj. lone·li·er, lone·li·est 1. a. Without companions; lone. b. Characterized by aloneness; solitary. 2. Unfrequented by people; desolate: a lonely crossroads.

The implication of loneliness is that we are "not with others" or that we are "by ourselves". Why is loneliness so difficult for many of us to deal with? It is because we as human beings have a primal imperative to "belong" with others. Abraham Maslow, MD, PhD, ranked belonging as the most important necessity to our survival after food, water, shelter and our immediate safety was taken care of.

Relationships, or the belonging component of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, are also the most difficult imperative that most of us experience as human beings. Being in relationships that feel bad is unhealthy and unhappy - and not being in relationships with others can also feel bad, unhealthy and unhappy. This is why many individuals, especially females, will remain in unhealthy situations even though they do not want to continue in a dysfunctional relationship.

In numerous studies, loneliness (especially in the elderly) has been shown to have a significant impact on an individual's health and wellness in addition to their feeling valued or loved. Relationships with pets has increased dramatically over the last 10 years in the U.S. Pets can eliminate the sense of being "alone" or lonely and have proven to have healing effects on individuals of all ages and all stages of illness.

Even our relationships with plants can help us to feel less alone and caring for them provides a sense of purposeful work and fulfillment. For more information on the topic of relationships and health, get a free download at www.changingbehavior.org.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.