Peculiar effects of loneliness are diverse in mind and body. Loneliness is a state of feeling alone. The side effects of loneliness are positive and negative at the same time. It offers you self-improvement by spending time with yourself. But meanwhile, long time loneliness affects the human brain and drags it in depression.
Human connection has been a vital part of our evolutionary history. As we started to live in bigger and bigger groups, our relationships with the people around us became ever more important for our health and protection.
What is the connection of the human mind with loneliness?
As such, the human brain has evolved to be an incredibly social and real hunger for that connection. And that’s why when this connection has taken away when we experienced periods of social isolation, loneliness can play some pretty strange tricks on our minds.
Lots of studies have shown that when people feel lonely they’re more likely to anthropomorphize objects around them.
So they might be more likely to see little faces in the objects around them but also we start to see intentions in machines. And the other kind of devices within our house so if your computer’s playing up and you might start to think it’s being badly behaved, or you might feel that if you turn it off you’re punishing it in some way.
That’s very much because we’re so hungry for social connection. When it has taken away from us, we try to find that connection anywhere around us.
People who feel extremely lonely right now might have more vivid dreams at night. Because the human brain is trying to help, like a bodyguard, it knows that you need social connections and you don’t have them, so the brain is going to go back in your memories and try to find social memories and bring them back to you to help you feel better.
How hallucination is attached to loneliness?
If you look at prisoners who’ve put in solitary confinement they have a much more extreme reaction to that isolation and loneliness.
It can include all kinds of hallucinations. They’ll be perceiving from flickering lights, fairly benign stuff to some really scary visions of animals all around them or the feeling that there is another presence in the room, and that’s especially true when there’s sensory deprivation, along with loss of social connections.
The problem is that the human brain is just lacking stimulation. And it uses to processing the vivid environment around us that when that sensory stimulation took away, it doesn’t know how to respond to that.
How behavior disorders are attached to loneliness?
However, it’s not our minds that affected by social isolation. Loneliness has proven to have some surprisingly dangerous effects on our body too, with huge implications for our overall health.
Loneliness is an epidemic. It does not discriminate, it’s a subjective mental state and anyone can fall into it. We’ve done studies showing that loneliness leads to depression after two or three weeks.
It can lead to increased blood pressure; increased cardiovascular disease. It can increase your stress response and cortisol levels. And as a consequence, you might find yourself on alert all the time, not trusting anyone around you and become a little bit irritable and defensive for no reason.
One big meta-analysis tried to look at all of the studies related to this found that having poor social connections can as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It proved to be roughly as bad for your health as suffering from obesity or having a lack of exercise. Of course, this has all brought into greater focus by the current global pandemic.
Studies have linked loneliness to reducing the immune system and increasing pro-inflammation. It is showing that this could be acting as an invisible accelerator to some of the worst consequences of the virus, especially amongst elderly people, who are more likely to struggle with loneliness and are at higher risk during the pandemic.
But these effects are preventable and reversible.
How meditations are the antidote for loneliness?
If we understand that the human brain is our main social organ. There are positive steps we can take to help reduce the effects of loneliness. And social isolation can have both our minds and our bodies. One really promising technique is this form of mindfulness knows as: ‘loving, kindness, meditation’.
Like other forms of meditation, that often involves lying in a quiet place, gathering your thoughts. But in this particular case you use that period of contemplation to reflect on the relationships with the people around you and you try to cultivate a positive attitude towards those people.
This has been studied scientifically. And what those studies show is that this can help to boost your sense of social connection. So it can alleviate the changes in the stress hormones that you might be feeling when you feel isolated.
We know that exercising mindfully, with a purpose, for 20 minutes a day can create new brain cells. They create in these areas of the brain that are deficient after social isolation. So we can have neurogenesis. I hope that after this experience when we return to normal and we’ll have more empathy with people. The ones who are experiencing loneliness on a day-to-day basis.
That we may try to find new ways to build connections with those people. And try to maintain regular contact across generations.
The more we embrace loneliness like a signal, the better we can survive the negative effects of loneliness. I think we are in the golden era of social communication. This is a big opportunity for us to have a mental reset of what it means to be social.
Loneliness affects your mental and physical health. Social connections are requiring attaining stable life. Technology has an interconnected world in one sing unit. We can develop virtual relations and hence virtual society also. The chances of depression and loneliness can be overcome by meditation ad intentional exercises.