When your job requires you to sit in an office reading documents and staring at your computer screen all day, human interactions can become far too rare, consisting of only a brief “hello” or “good morning” as you pass people in the hallway.
Not only are many lawyers isolated at the office, but they also end up too tired to engage with others after work; opportunities for drinks with friends begin to dwindle after you decline too many times. The result of this pattern is a worsening state of loneliness that can negatively affect multiple aspects of your life.
Mental Health Effects of Loneliness
Being able to laugh with friends or talk with your co-workers about their plans for the weekend are not just nice things to do but are healthy things to do. Being too often alone and without conversation is not good for anyone’s mental health and can contribute to depression and social anxiety. Becoming accustomed to being alone can make it even harder to engage with others if you’ve had an issue with engagement in the past. Loneliness can also make it more difficult to deal with the regular stressors of life.
Physical Effects of Loneliness
When you lose motivation in one area of your life and are not connecting with others, you may lose motivation in other areas of life as well—loneliness can sap your motivation to go to the gym, for instance. A lack of social life may lead to overeating for comfort and alleviation of boredom. And of course, overeating can cause weight gain and potential health issues like heart disease and obesity. Loneliness can also make you more susceptible to cold and flu symptoms and trigger inflammation in the body. Studies are clear that feeling lonely for long periods of time can even shorten your life span!
When you are being both mentally and physically affected by loneliness, it can be difficult to do your job to the best of your ability. So don’t underestimate how important it is to carve out time in your life to prevent the solitary life from taking hold. Try these easy, no-pressure ways to be social and connect with others:
- Join an exercise class: This way you kill two birds with one stone. You can keep up your physical fitness while having a space where you can socialize and interact with others. Bring a friend along or make new ones. Getting to know a few people in the class will motivate you to keep returning.
- Have a social lunch: If you don’t have time to go out to lunch, then grab a meal and eat it in a social area like a break room where you can socialize a bit with other people having their lunch. Or, make friends with your neighbors in the offices next door to you—they could also probably benefit from some human interaction! Why not have lunch together, vent a bit about the day, and get a break?
- Schedule it: The same way you schedule your business meetings, schedule your social time. If you know you have dinner plans with friends, treat those plans as unbreakable, and (as much as possible) try to plan out what work you need to get done beforehand. Planning your life outside of work can help you be more efficient at the office—if you actually have a life to get to, you’ll make sure you don’t waste any time getting out of there.
Even though you may feel like your job is the most important thing in your life, remember that putting your mental and physical health first is important to do well at that job. With a little more social interaction, your work days may actually become more efficient and your overall happiness will increase.