In the time of COVID-19 and social distancing, it’s important to know how we can maintain our mental health. Kasley Killam, joins me for a conversation about loneliness, and isolation during this trying time and how we can protect our mental health even when we may not be able to connect physically with others.
Kasley is a Masters of Public Health Candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health. She is also a World Economic Forum Global Shaper and a social health advocate as well as a Contributing Writer at Scientific American (and has been for 5 years).
In March, 2020 she published an article in Scientific American titled, “How to Prevent Loneliness in a Time of Social Distancing.” In this conversation we cover her suggestions on this topic, and we dig into what isolation is, how it’s different than loneliness and why both impact us as humans so much.
Some of Kasley’s recent writing:
HERE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS WE TALKED ABOUT:
- What is loneliness? What is Isolation? Kasley describes the difference between loneliness and isolation as well as physical impacts that a lack of social interaction can have on the human body.
Social Isolation – Is about being physically isolated. It’s objective. It could be because you live alone, or you have physical limitations or you lack transportation, etc.
Loneliness – Feeling connected to other people. It’s subjective. Do you feel like you have people you can reach out to and connect with?
- Chronic loneliness and social isolation can impact your health in a number of ways including these examples. Here are some examples of how isolation can negatively impact our health:
a. More likely to catch a cold
b. More likely to experience depression
c. Increased risk of heart disease / stroke
d. Shortened life span
e. Decreased immunity
f. Increased inflammation
g. Decreased happiness, joy sense of purpose
- Loneliness is on the rise, but is certainly not a “new thing.” Kasley referenced a Cigna survey launched in January 2020 where they polled 10,000 American adults. They found that across all age groups that 61% of people are lonely, compared to 54% the year prior. This is particularly common among Gen Z who reported 79% feeling lonely. This has been an issue long before this pandemic. Link here to Loneliness Survey conducted by Cigna.
- Why are we so lonely? Common reasons:
a. People are increasingly living alone
b. Technology – easy to blame, the evidence is mixed,
c. Less participation in social clubs and community organizations
d. People have less time to invest in relationships as they are working more
e. Social anxiety
- How can we fight against isolation during this time of social distancing? Kasley tells us that one universal that we are all going through is that we are having to adapt and figure out how to function and flourish during this time. There are a number of things we can and should be doing including:
a. Reflect on what social well-being looks like for you. This is different for everyone. This can include contemplating questions such as “how much time do I want to spend interacting with other people?” and “How do I like to spend quality time with others?”
b. Make a list of the people you want to keep in touch with and focus on the relationships we want to prioritize in our lives. We need to figure out how we want to engage with those people.
c. Connect at least once a day with one of these people on our list, or more, if we can.
- We also talked about how technology plays a role in both creating isolation, and how technology can be a tool to provide connectivity at the same time. When discussing how to use technology in a healthy way Kasley explained that technology is often to blame for isolation, and it’s true, because many of us have unhealthy habits with social media and technology. Kasley recommends that we use this time to figure out how we can use technology in ways that support your social well-being.
- We also talked about how introverts and extroverts handle isolation and loneliness differently as well as what healthy can look like for different types of personalities both during this time and later when we return to our old way of life.
- We also talked about what socially healthy use of technology and social media can look like now and in the future. Kasley gives us tips on how to define what healthy looks like for ourselves and how we can manage our engagement with our devices and social media.
- Finally, Kasley gave us an overview of what a Masters of Public Health program is about, why she chose to get into the psychology space and what she plans to do once she obtains her Masters.