The impact of a taboo topic on body and mind.
There is a growing body of evidence that points to the impact of loneliness on the body and mind.
Researchers have found that it can increase cognitive decline, with resulting issues with memory and more serious degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia. It can also impact our immune system, with long periods of loneliness leading to increased inflammation in the body. In one of the best researched books on the topic, ‘Loneliness, Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection’, leading neuroscientist John T. Cacioppo demonstrates that its impact on our health can be as damaging as obesity….the largest ‘killer’ in the Western world, potentially increasing risk of any early death by 20%.
Loneliness can be a side effect of menopause as significant as hot flashes. There is something about the collision of a life stage that 75% of us feel is taboo, societal perceptions of our ‘value’ in midlife, and perhaps a feeling of our body’s ‘betrayal’ that can bring about a loneliness that is acute and extremely distressing.
From feeling we no longer ‘know ourselves’ to the feeling we need to keep our experiences of menopause ‘locked up’... Then, layer on the impact of the pandemic on connections - and many of us may have found that the relationships that nourished us have quietly waned.
We’ve all had that sense of loneliness in a crowded room. And, what is interesting about the latest research, is that it’s not about how many interactions you have. Researchers have also concluded that simply ‘getting back out there’ isn’t the answer either.
So, if we’re feeling alone during menopause, what can help?
1. There is merit in looking at what you put on your plate:
To mitigate the impact of inflammation, many of the tenets we advocate around nutrition in menopause are valuable. Check out our journal entry HERE for how to build a balanced plate. And check out our whole-food range supplement range too, which is backed full of anti-inflammatory goodness.
2. Move more:
the endorphin release that comes from exercise can leave us feeling happier and more confident in our own skin. Group exercise can provide a safe environment to participate collectively without being forced to converse, so can be a gentle route to ‘getting outside of your head’. But exercising alone can help too. In a study undertaken following the pandemic, researchers found that running or walking outside was cited as the most effective tool to reduce feelings of loneliness by respondents.
3. Treat your brain like a muscle:
Researchers have found that sustained periods of loneliness can lead us to misinterpret social signals, which in turn exacerbates feelings of isolation. We may need to consciously study how to read others again. Check out tip 5 for a smart way to help that to happen…
4. Find the right ‘tribe’:
It’s what we’re here for. And it’s explicitly what our Meno-Well programme is designed to offer up too. Monthly gatherings of curious minds, navigating midlife together. No judgement. Lots of love. Why not check out the schedule HERE, pick a topic that interests you both and join us on the sofa soon?
5. Read more fiction:
‘Fiction is the mind’s flight simulator”. Keith Oatley, cognitive psychologist.
This final tip is perhaps my favourite. Reading fiction can make us more empathetic and more understanding of our own minds. But, in opening new worlds, it can also help us feel less alone and enables us to hone our social skills again.
Next week MPowder will be supporting The Marmalade Trust in shining a spotlight on loneliness; and exploring the tools and practices we can incorporate into our routines to rediscover community and the power of ‘significant’ connection in detail. Kicking off with a Lunch&Learn LIVE on instagram on Tuesday 14th June at 1pm BST with the charity’s founder and all round super-hero, Amy Perrin, who has built a phenomenal supportive network in the UK over the last 6 years. To join the conversation, simply follow us @mpowerstore.
I hope to see you there.
With love, Rebekah & The MPowder Team.