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  • Steven Robinson
    Steven Robinson

    Isolation's Impact: How Social Isolation Drains Us of Energy

    It's no secret that when we don't feel connected to others, we lack motivation and sometimes even the will to move forward. But according to a recent study, being alone can have an even bigger impact than we realized—it can drain us of our energy.

    The study, conducted by the University of Michigan surveyed 92 college-age men and women about their level of physical and mental fatigue in response to eight hours of solitude. Participants reported higher levels of overall exhaustion post-isolation from others than when they had social interaction which suggests the impact of being socially isolated goes beyond simply feeling down.

    So why would a lack of social interaction cause us to be more tired? There are a few possible explanations.

    First, in an era of overstimulation and an endless stream of distractions it's important to remember that people need connection. According to psychologist John Cacioppo, isolation plays a vital role in our mental health, since we rely on social contact for psychological support and protection. Long periods without friendship and companionship can lead to feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety. These feelings then cause us to expend greater energy trying to compensate; it's a small price to pay for much-needed sustenance.

    Second, having someone in our lives who understands and commiserates with our struggles serves as a buffer against daily stressors. Having nothing to buffer us from life's anxieties takes its toll on us; as does not having someone to cheer us on during difficult times or celebrate with us during moments of triumph. Whenever an external source of support is absent we automatically absorb more stress and find ourselves feeling frazzled and depleted.

    And finally, recent research suggests one-on-one social interaction triggers the release of oxytocin, our body's official "cuddle hormone". It helps reduce stress, encourage social bonding and bolster our immune systems—all necessary if we want to stay energized and healthy.

    The findings of this study offer a powerful reminder about the importance of staying connected to others–not only for our emotional well-being but for maintaining healthy levels of physical energy as well. So make sure to carve out some time for your friends, family and loved ones –it just might save you from reaching for that fourth cup of coffee.

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