Altruism is good for you. Caring for and about other people is good for you. Loneliness is stressful, and can give rise to those self-critical thought spirals as you lie awake at 4am. The solution? Spend more time creating connection and meaning.
A recent article in The Guardian about the health benefits of various spiritual practices discusses the results of several longitudinal research studies that investigated the effects of spiritual and religious practices, such as praying for other people, reflective prayer, loving-kindness meditation, volunteer work, and similar altruistic practices.
The article suggests that these practices reduce stress, anxiety, loneliness, and inflammation, and that they contribute to a sense of wellbeing. I’m surprised that the article doesn’t mention singing, which has similar health benefits for humans to the way that purring is beneficial to cats.
The thing I really liked about the article was that, since it was written by an agnostic, it not only didn’t suggest a specific religion, but also suggested ways in which atheists and agnostics could incorporate beneficial practices into their lives without joining a religion. Suggestions included keeping a gratitude diary, going for walks in nature, and volunteering.
In another article which is a collection of advice from people aged over 100, the advice given by many of them is about being kind, maintaining relationships with others, and volunteering.