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Humans are social creatures, interdependent on one another. Socializing is at its core, a mental workout, and an essential part of brain development.
Being alone, one can start to lose the sense of who one is, as our identity requires a reflection from others to become real. Self-isolation, with zero interaction with other people, makes a person disappear gradually.
Human beings form social circles averaging to 150 individuals; this is called the Dunbar’s Number.
A lack of people around us can actually make our brain shrink. The region known for formation of new memories, called the 'dentate gyrus', reduces in size if there is no human interaction. There is also a reduction in spatial processing (locating objects in a given space) and focus.
Positive solitude is a state of being alone without being lonely, in a contented manner.
Loneliness, on the other hand, is isolation with a hunger for social contact, something that distorts one’s perceptions, damaging the ability to interact in a normal way with others. It also lowers one’s self-esteem leading to a loneliness loop, characterized by social withdrawal and depression.
Social bonding is essential to almost all animals, with even rats who live alone being shunned by groups of rats.
Likewise, humans need face-to-face interactions. Teens spending time alone start to show signs that they are not socially competent, even though they would love to connect with others, even if the other person is a stranger.
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The current pandemic has us facing one of our biggest fears: staying alone, dealing with our own emotions and thoughts. However, this situation has also a great deal of advantages. While in self-isolation, we can use this time to improve ourselves by discovering new hobbies or just developing skills we have already gathered, cultivating our mind through reading. In fewer words, we finally have the time to learn how to deal with ourselves. And this is always a good thing.
As difficult as it may seem, self-isolation has its benefits. When spending your time alone, the key to handle this situation is to find a purpose in your suffering. In other words, focus on why your suffering is doing good to others as well as to yourself. Furthermore, the fact that you stick to a certain routine or that
everybody is doing the same thing provides you not only with a meaning, but also with a sense of belonging.
Social withdrawal is categorized into three types: