Why do we feel isolated so often and how do we deal with loneliness…
Despite being more interconnected through the internet and fast communication, it is still strange to witness that most people feel more lonely than ever before. In the last couple of decades, this feeling has become more and more frequent in our lives. And it has manifested itself into a chronic emotion for millions across the globe. In the US 46% of the population have said that they often felt lonely. And in the UK, the number lands at 60% for people between the ages of 18 to 34.
Why is this? Why is this unprecedented number of us feel this way in an era of interconnectivity?
Everyone feels lonely at certain times. When we start a new job, move to a different place, or lose touch with people we once cared about. Now, let us not be confused about being lonely and being alone. A bit of isolation is good for us. Therefore we have excluded this from our study. Loneliness is a subjective experience of the individual.
The Science behind a Lonely Brain
The strange aspect of loneliness is that it can affect anybody. Despite money, fame, power, followers, or influence, it is something that cannot be avoided. Why? Because it’s part of our bodily function, part of our biology.
Humans are social beings. And the sense of loneliness makes us pay attention to our social needs just like our brains warn us of pain or hunger.
Over millions of years, throughout the course of history and evolution, this social need developed into an indicator of survival. As social beings, we formed connections with each other through collaboration as a need for survival in ancient times. Our brains are more fine-tuned to recognize the expressions and emotions of others in order to sustain social bonds.
Being social became part of our brains’ biology to deal with loneliness
Back in the old days thousand of years ago, most people pursued a tribal or nomad life in small groups of 50 to 100. Maintaining a hunter-gatherer lifestyle was impossible when someone lived in isolation. Solitude meant death, making it crucial to get along with your tribal group. For our ancestors, the greatest punishment came from diseases, the wilderness, or accidents, but by being expelled from society.
To be able to form and abide in a group of people, evolution had made a less tangible sensation in our brains called “social pain.” According to the American Psychological Association, social pain is the evolutionary experience of pain as a result of interpersonal rejection or loss, such as rejection from a social group, bullying, or the loss of a loved one.
Social pain is a sort of warning from acting with the animosity that would leave us isolated. Our ancestors, who experienced rejection as pain were likely to change their behavior when they got rejected. This resulted in the sharing of food, showing affection, and helping others. While those who did not feel this pain were mostly self-centered and got either kicked out or often rejected from a group.
Because of social pain, rejection hurts.
These emotions alerting our brains have worked perfectly while humans lived in tribes, keeping us connected while surrounded by wilderness.
However, we began building our world. As cities grew throughout the industrial revolution, communities were broken up and dissolved. As our world became what we know today, this trend sped up quickly.
And this has led us to where we are today. The modern man can survive easily thanks to civilization but not having the coping mechanisms to live with loneliness.
Today, we move faster and more distances to find new job opportunities, relationships, or higher education, while leaving our social net behind. We meet fewer people in person and for shorter periods in comparison with the past. And while our minds get a small dose of dopamine when purchasing new items like a phone or a car, our minds are fundamentally the same as it was thousands of years ago.
How to Deal with Loneliness? – Here are our 10 tips to help you out
Loneliness can be amongst the unhealthiest things for us humans. It can make us age quicker, prompt cancer cells, cause Alzheimer’s faster, and make your immune system weaker. It is twice as deadly as obesity and as damaging as a packet of cigarettes a day. Here are a few tips to deal with loneliness.
1, Sacrifice time
As we approach adulthood and go out on our own we stumble into chronic loneliness more often as we become overwhelmed with work, studies, or Netflix. One day, you might wake up alone in your bed, with the sensation that you are yearning for close relationships. It is best to sacrifice a few hours or two to go to social events and force yourself out of your comfort zone.
2, Give your Family a call
No matter what you do, call your parents or your grandparents about once every week. Trust me, if your relationship with your family is stable and kind, they’re always happy to receive your call on a late afternoon, even if you don’t know it. Family is more important than anything.
3, Humility over Pride
Sometimes the people who show the greatest of strengths might feel the deepest of pangs of loneliness. A humble personality is more inviting than a haughty one.
It is hard to find close connections as an adult and will get even harder as we age. So loneliness can become chronic and one must accept this. One great way to reach out to others is to cast our pride aside and take the first step. There is nothing wrong with admitting to people you know that you feel down sometimes. (Do not do this with strangers or people you barely know.) Humility can take us a lot further than we think. And if someone neglects or thinks of it as being weak, are the people not worth your time.
4, Go to a psychiatrists
“No shit Sherlock!” But despite the obvious, very few people actually take the liberty to talk to a health professional. Only one session can make a huge difference, by getting feedback on a diet, vitamin intake, tasks to focus on to exercise the mind and work out our deeper needs.
5, Occupy your Brain
A temporary solution is to keep the brain occupied with various tasks. This does not include work, but fun activities like riding a bike, doing a puzzle, playing video games or watching a film. While this might be only good for a short time, it is a good solution for people whose friends and family are busy or their schedules won’t allow instant meetings.
6, Join a community
Finding people who are interested in what you love is the best way to engage in conversations and the love of a common pursuit. Meetup.com can be a good headstart for you where you can look for events with themes that are close to your heart.
7, Be always curious
Have you ever had a person who showed curiosity towards you? How did it make you feel? Being interested in others will make them more attracted to you because you are giving them attention. So you will simply get attention in return. Curiosity about others also takes your focus away from the aforementioned social pain that tends to make you hide and sulk.
8, Turn off Social media
This helped me appreciate my surroundings more than ever. My dopamine-induced brain with social media poisoned my thoughts when not receiving instant messages. This was one of the biggest challenges I had to overcome. The instant gratification for likes and messages, impressions, and fake congratulations is what my brain craved. This instant gratification did not exist in real life and therefore, my brain shunned or failed to appreciate the same gratitude in real life. Social media addiction can be extremely dangerous and isolate us. So when it doesn’t involve work, remove social media from your life.
As mentioned before with the tribes, a giving person who shared his hunt was immediately appreciated and welcomed. When you have no one to give to, join a charity organization, donate to people (but not anonymously) or take a pet from a shelter for a walk. Contributing to your neighborhood or community in a way that feels good can be great for loneliness. The interactions can help build positive connections with new people or old ones.
10, Remove the Toxic People who make you feel lonely
Despite all these tips, some of you might think that there are people who are not worth talking to or meeting. And that is true. There are always toxic people in your network. But by following these rules you can eventually see who is worth your time and filter out the ones who bring you down. Socialization should be a fun part of life, not a necessity. It is difficult to cope with everyone, but at the end of the day, it is in our nature to seek out and find out those who are worth searching for.