Technically, loneliness is not a disease. But did you know that social isolation increases your risk of death as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day? Here’s more, even a fruit fly will die early if cut off from other fruit flies. This is true as well of mice, rats, pigs, rabbits, and many more primates. What does that concept of loneliness mean for us humans, the most social “animals” of all? Today I’m  going to talk about the negative effects of loneliness and social isolation on various aspects of life, including health, job performance, and overall well-being. I’m  also going to suggest some potential actions you can take to improve your social interactions for career success. 

Social People Make More Money:

Being social and avoiding isolation make you happier, healthier and apparently wealthier as well. People who are less lonely tend to make more money. Do I need to say that again? People who are less lonely tend to make more money! Happier, less lonely people form good relationships, including those in the workplace. It may be that good relationships rather than just happiness actually improves job performance, but they may also increase the likelihood of receiving good performance reviews or promotions and provide better networking opportunities for career growth. 

Here’s more to consider: people who feel connected to others get a bigger boost from positive input. If you’re a lonely person whose brain might be wired to go negative, well, you don’t get the same emotional lift from positive input. Socially disconnected people experience a deeper hurt from negative input. And if you’re lonely, you have an over reaction and may sense that you are threatened when you get negative input. That can be detrimental for receiving constructive criticism – which we all need – and for getting job rejections.

Pain from Rejection is Temporary:

Well, here’s the deal. A job campaign is filled with rejection. Being resilient is vital and you may just need to tweak your brain just a bit. When we feel excluded it can literally be painful. In fact, when you get rejected, if you’re not feeling like you’re part of the community, the emotion around being excluded activates a part of our brain that normally is sparked by physical pain.

All personality types show the same “ouch” response to rejection. Even those who think they’re a tough cookie can feel social exclusion when they are rejected. This may especially hurt for those of you who are seeking new work because you were fired or let go, allowing yourself to feel the “ouch”. But know that the pain is designed to be temporary. Scientists recognize that this feeling is designed to launch or motivate us into better or new connections if we stay too long in disconnection from others.

Loneliness is a Vicious Cycle: 

Fear, fearfulness, negative thoughts and disruptive or self defeating behaviors can follow things like simply not taking good enough care of yourself. Isolating yourself and avoiding human connection is a prime example of not taking care of yourself. In fact, loneliness has been shown to impair the very part of our brain that we need most to turn ourselves around; it is also the part of our brain where our executive functioning happens, the prefrontal cortex. Lonely people then tend to eat poorly, drink too much and exercise too little.

So here are my suggestions for you or others that you may know as you are about to enter into a job search or job campaign:

Create Connections For Future Career Success:

Reach out to friends, rekindle those friendships that may have waned or simply strengthen those that you already have. Friendships with people who have similar values as you are especially helpful as you embark on something new. 

You may be thinking “this is great, but how can making friends help with my career?” Great question: every friend you have is a connection to a potential job. While that shouldn’t be the reason you make new friends, it’s definitely an added bonus. Imagine this: you join a group – say a craft group or a walking club – and you start to enjoy your home life a bit more because you are able to have quality time with friends who have a shared interest. That in itself is amazing! Having that positive time in your personal life should help you recharge while you’re off work so you have more energy when you go into the office. Not only that, but say 3 months, maybe even a year down the line, you start to feel bored in your job and you’re ready to make a move. Now you have some new friends and connections from your club that you can talk with about looking for a new position. They might know someone at a company that interests you OR they may even work in a company where you’d love to work. These added connections will help in your career success because your network will have grown and you will have some added confidence because you have a bigger support system.

Use Social Interactions to Strengthen Current Bonds:

Get to know your colleagues if you’re working or other volunteers, if you’re in a volunteering role. Simply making yourself available to those who are around you in a more approachable way can give you some mental stability as you embark on something new. Neighbors, people at the dog park, whoever your community happens to be – these are all people you have something in common with which gives you something to build upon.

Connect With Family:

They know your story the best. They have known you for a long time. And as long as they are supportive and not Aunt Debbie Downer or Uncle Miserable Mark, there’s no better place to start than with a warm contact in your family. 

Part of getting out there and starting that social snowball is getting confident again with your communication skills. If you’ve been stuck with a limited social circle or have just been in such a limited routine for too long, it can feel really daunting to get out of that comfort zone. That’s natural! That’s why family may be a good place to start if you are feeling nervous. Reach out to cousins or family members you may not have seen for a while and work on getting to know them again. Listen to how they’ve been (listening is a great soft skill you can work to improve in this exercise) and truly just get more accustomed to talking to people you haven’t spoken to in a while.

Join a Value Driven Group to Form Strong Connections:

This could be a civic or spiritually based group. For example, if you’re a veteran there are many groups for veterans to connect. If you are or would like to be religious there are many groups where you can meet about your shared faith. If you are a cyclist or hiker check out for groups near you where you could enjoy your favorite activities.

Join a Fun Group of Like-minded People:

Having fun and bringing joy into your life is something we could all do better. And there are tons of groups from knitting to car racing to weekly bridge or poker games, whatever your interests may be – find something.

And so in conclusion, I want to wrap up our thoughts today with this. Let’s build personal connections as we work toward career growth. They work more hand in hand than you may think. Find someone to get fit with like a walking buddy or a gym partner. Do something you love as a volunteer, join a local community garden, movie club or support a local group doing good in a way that uplifts you. Perhaps your library has various coffee talks on topics of interest, go! Talk with others who are there as well. Maybe even have another coffee or a cup of tea with someone afterwards. I’m right here alongside you, so if you want to schedule a 1-on-1, follow my link; This is not a time to be lonely. Be well and take care.

If you want a simplified video of this blog, you can go to my Youtube channel and give it a listen here.