Ever notice how special days can tend to bring out serious blues in some? Research tells us that loneliness causes more deaths than smoking or obesity. Red flags may show up in feelings of severe disappointment, hopelessness, or anxiety, and any of these can pave a mental pathway to depression and loneliness. As loneliness grows to epidemic proportions, Britain has adopted a loneliness minister to help create strategies against this toxic problem.
First glances show people for whom loneliness replays in spite of friends, family ties, or holiday get-togethers. Loneliness can spread its toxins in a sense of misery, or fears of lost opportunity stored in your amygdala, and that rerun reaction explains feelings of isolation regardless of cheerful situations you may encounter.
Loneliness increases cortisol stress chemicals which explains why some people suffer from feelings of isolation even at family feasts where others enjoy holiday happiness. How so?
- Pleasure centers of lonely people light up with images of objects faster than with images of other people.
- Lonely people tend to increase their sense of alienation by not seeking out interactions with others, as they don’t see how these interactions will satisfy personal friendship cravings.
That scrooge image, where a person may have loads of money yet no friends likely illustrates best, the human brain on loneliness. Not surprisingly, imaging of a lonely person’s brain also shows less activity in areas of the brain that understand other’s views or needs, and so further distance themselves from social bonding.
Loneliness is bad for your health
Still unsure if loneliness comes more from your gene pool or from social experiences? Researchers shows how toxic outcomes from loneliness may be a bit of both. Feelings of isolation often lead to serious cases depression, obesity, high blood pressure, heart problems, and many stress related illnesses that reshape neural pathways in your brain.
We now know that who remain alone in live tend to die younger and enjoy less quality of life in senior years. Mother Teresa described feelings of being unwanted as “the most terrible poverty.” The Dali Lama suggested that loneliness is more choice than fate. Alone is a merely state of being, while lonely is a toxic state of mind. Choice make the difference here.
If loneliness is bad for your health, and if feelings of isolation are often choices, is it also true that people choose health problems that come from a sense of abandonment? That answer is less evident in the research and yet will likely be quite clear if you engage intrapersonal intelligence and reflect of how we change and grow mentally.
Rewire ahead to ensure holiday well being
Don’t allow your birthday, or a family holiday to go south. With a few mental adjustments, that business boom need not come at personal expense this holiday season. Fortunately, you possess a unique ability to rewire negative emotions stored in your amygdala – from feeling isolated and bitter – to fully expecting fun with others in this holiday season. How so?
Act now on what you’d value in your future. Research shows how actions literally reshape your brain for more of what you expect.
Smile, regardless of how you feel, for example, and your brain’s plasticity changes in your favor. The action triggers your brain to create new neuron pathways toward a happier reality.
Give even a small gift of encouragement or support, without conditions, and in spite of personal loss. In response, your brain raises levels of serotonin chemicals for sustainable well being.
Mimic the actions of a person you most admire for their holiday spirit, and your brain rewires dendrite brain cells for more of the same admirable spirit in you. Develop a new intelligence at the same time, and your brain rewires itself for further growth in that area.
Laugh, especially at yourself, and not only will others laugh with you, but your brain will create enzymes for clear thinking, better learning and adventures brimming over with possibilities in spite of turbulent times.
Discover one new insight by converting a rut into a renewed reality you’d like others to see in you. Phone one person you dislike today and invite that person to lunch to find out what’s working well in life. Curiosity and this call moves your brain’s basal ganglia from the rut of loathing into newly created possibilities lived from within your working memory.
Support one person who thinks on the opposing side of your own holiday views, and watch how your concrete defense of that person will leave you mentally able to override your brain’s default for ruts that held you back in past. The action shows you new possibilities where you may have slipped into limiting problems in past.
Can you see how brain based recommendations here carry you beyond hopeful or positive thinking? Do a few simple behaviors, and your brain does the rest for you.
Use any one of the above brainpower tools by simply doing a related act and you’ll spark brain cell regeneration for more satisfaction over any holiday. Or create a brain power tool of your own and then use it, in spite of troubled times. Scientifically speaking, these tips come from neurogenesis research on how adult brains can grow new cells or regenerate old ones.
Worth a try to communicate colors where you once showed only sorrow for a festive event? Looking to help a peer or loved one amp up their anti-loneliness quotient? Then check out these brain based tools to help reshape finer choices.
YOUR TURN! What will your lonliness strategy be? Join our Brain Based Circles! Would love to meet you at any of the following!
Created by Ellen Weber, Brain Based Tasks for Growth Mindset