Ahamed has an MBA and worked in document control for years. He enjoys writing and has freelanced and blogged across the internet.
In the UK, 60% of people between the ages of 18 and 34 report feeling lonely frequently. 46% of Americans report feeling lonely on a regular basis. Despite the fact that we are in the most linked period of human history, a record number of us nevertheless feel alone. Being alone and being lonely are two different things. You don't have to enjoy spending time with people in order to be content with yourself.
Being lonely is just a personal, subjective sensation. You are alone if you feel alone. One widespread misconception is that loneliness mainly affects those who lack social skills and inappropriate social behavior. However, population-based research has revealed that social ties for adults are mostly unaffected by social skills.
Everyone can be impacted by loneliness. Nothing—not wealth, not fame, not power, not beauty, not social skills, not a great personality—can shield you from loneliness because it is a biological fact.
What is being alone?
Like hunger, loneliness is a natural human emotion. While loneliness makes you more aware of your social needs, hunger makes you more aware of your physical demands. Your body is concerned with your social requirements because, millions of years ago, they were an important predictor of your survival chances.
Our predecessors were rewarded by natural selection for cooperating and establishing relationships with one another. Our brains developed and got increasingly well-tuned to recognize what others were thinking and feeling as well as to establish and maintain social ties. Our biology has evolved to include sociality. You were born into groups of 50 to 150 people, with whom you typically remained lifelong.
For me to survive on my own while getting adequate calories, keeping warm, or caring for children was nearly impossible. Together we could survive; alone we would perish. The ability to get along with others was therefore essential. The greatest threat to your ancestors' survival wasn't being gobbled up by a lion, but rather not fitting in and being left out. Your body produced "social pain" to prevent that. Such suffering is an evolutionary response to rejection.
To make sure you cease acting in a way that might isolate you, implement some kind of early warning system. Your ancestors who found rejection to be more painful were more likely to alter their behavior as a result of rejection, staying in the tribe, as opposed to those who did not, who were expelled and most likely perished. Because of this, rejection hurts, and loneliness hurts much more.
For the majority of our history, these systems for keeping us connected functioned flawlessly, but then people started creating a new world for themselves.
How Isolation Kills
Numerous studies have proven that one of the most harmful things a human being can go through is the stress that results from long-term loneliness. It hastens the aging process. It makes cancer more deadly. Your immune system cannot keep up with the progression of Alzheimer's. We are aware that loneliness is just as dangerous as smoking a pack of cigarettes every day and is twice as deadly as obesity.
The fact that it can become self-sustaining once it develops into a chronic condition makes it particularly deadly. Physical and social pain both cause your brain to perceive danger, and because of this, when social pain is inflicted on you, you react defensively and immediately. Your brain switches into self-preservation mode when loneliness persists for a long time. Not only that, but it also begins to perceive danger and antagonism everywhere.
According to some research, when you're lonely, your brain becomes less accurate at correctly interpreting social cues while also becoming considerably more receptive and alert to them. Although you give others greater attention, you don't really comprehend them. Your brain's facial recognition system becomes out of sync and more prone to mistakenly interpret neutral faces as hostile, which makes you wary of other people. Because of this apparent hostile world, loneliness causes you to think the worst about other people's intentions toward you.
To defend yourself, you might become more self-centered, which might make you seem more aloof, uneasy around people, and chilly than you actually are.
What Are Our Options?
The first thing you can do if loneliness has taken on a significant presence in your life is to try to identify the vicious cycle you might be caught in. Typically, it goes like this. An initial sense of loneliness is followed by tension and unhappiness, which causes you to selectively focus on unpleasant interactions with other people. Your opinions about you and other people become more pessimistic as a result.
You start to shy away from social situations, which heightens your sense of loneliness. Every time, this cycle gets worse and is more difficult to break. When you're lonely, you'll sit apart from your classmates in class, refuse to pick up the phone when pals call and turn down invitations until they stop coming. Every single one of us has a story about who we are, and if that story is that you are excluded by others, others will take that up, and the outer world may start to reflect how you feel about it.
Even though you may long for connections, this is frequently a slow, creeping process that takes years and can lead to melancholy. Accepting that loneliness is a completely normal emotion and nothing to be embarrassed by is the first step you can take to get out of it. Everyone experiences loneliness at some point in their life, in actuality. It is a characteristic of all people. You can admit that you feel something and get rid of its source, but you can't stop feeling it or ignore it until it miraculously disappears.
You can study your attentional patterns and see if you tend to focus on only unfavorable items. Was this interaction with a coworker typically positive, mutual, or even constructive?
The Drawbacks of Modernity
In order to enter factories, people left their villages and fields. Communities that had been around for hundreds of years started to disappear as cities expanded. This trend accelerated as our world quickly became modern. We travel great distances today in search of new jobs, relationships, and education while leaving our social networks behind. We interact with individuals in person less frequently than in the past and with fewer people overall.
Really, the modern plague of loneliness dates back only to the late Renaissance. The individual became more prominent in Western society. The Middle Ages' collectivism was rejected by intellectuals, and the nascent Protestant theology emphasized personal accountability. During the Industrial Revolution, this pattern became more pronounced.
Time spent with friends is the easiest and most convenient thing to give up. Up until the day you suddenly realize how lonely and yearning for personal relationships you feel. But it's challenging to establish strong relationships as an adult, so loneliness can last for a long time. Our bodies and minds are fundamentally the same as they were 50,000 years ago, despite the fact that humans feel pretty terrific about stuff like iPhones and spaceships. Our biology is still perfectly adapted to us interacting with one another.
The average number of close friends in the US decreased from three in 1985 to two in 2011. Most people fall into long-term loneliness by mistake. As you get older, you start to get busy with work, school, dating, having kids, and Netflix. Simply said, there isn't enough time.
What actually happened during a conversation?
What was said by the other person?
Perhaps the other individual was merely pressed for time and not truly reacting adversely. Then there are your perceptions of the outside world. Are you supposing the worst about what people mean to you? Do you predetermine how a social scenario will play out before you ever enter it?
Can you try to give others the benefit of the doubt if you're trying to protect yourself from harm and don't want to take a chance by opening up? Do you think you can just assume they're not against you? Can you take the chance of exposing yourself once more? Finally, how you behave. Are you avoiding situations where you could be near people? Are you looking for reasons to say no to invitations? Or are you proactively pushing others away to keep yourself safe?
Are you displaying any signs of being under attack? Are you genuinely yearning for new relationships, or have you grown comfortable with the way things are? Of course, each individual and circumstance are distinctive and diverse, so just reflection may not be sufficient. Please attempt to seek out and receive help if you are unable to resolve your situation on your own. It is a sign of courage rather than weakness.
Loneliness merits more attention whether we view it as an issue that only affects the individual and must be resolved in order to bring about happiness or as a public health emergency. Although we have created a world that is nothing short of wonderful, our basic biological desire for connection cannot be satisfied or replaced by any of the shiny things we have created.
The majority of animals receive their needs from their immediate environment. We must base the artificial human world we have created for ourselves on what we receive from one another.
Together, let's try something. Regardless of whether you feel a little lonely or just want to brighten someone else's day, let's reach out to someone today. Maybe send a letter to a friend you haven't heard from in a while, give a distant relative a call, invite a coworker over for coffee, or simply attend something you are usually too scared or too lazy to do, like a DMD event or a sports club.
Finally, Since everyone is unique, you already know what's best for you. It's possible that nothing will result, but that's okay. Don't attempt this with any hopes in mind. Simply letting go a little can help you strengthen your connection muscles, which will help them become stronger over time. or to assist others in using them