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The History of Loneliness

Loneliness is a form of grief

It is an umbrella term we use to cover for all sorts of things most people would rather not name and have no idea how to fix.
Plenty of people like to be alone. But solitude and seclusion are different from loneliness. Loneliness is a state of profound distress.

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The History of Loneliness

The History of Loneliness

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/04/06/the-history-of-loneliness

newyorker.com

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Key Ideas

Loneliness before quarantine

We crave intimacy. And yet, long before the present pandemic, with its forced isolation and social distancing, humans had begun building their own separate cells. 

Before modern times, very few human beings lived alone.

Loneliness is a form of grief

It is an umbrella term we use to cover for all sorts of things most people would rather not name and have no idea how to fix.
Plenty of people like to be alone. But solitude and seclusion are different from loneliness. Loneliness is a state of profound distress.

The evolutionary theory of loneliness

Primates need to belong to an intimate social group in order to survive; this is especially true for humans.
Separation from your group (either finding yourself alone or finding yourself among a group of people who do not know and understand you) triggers a fight-or-flight response.

Reacting with our bodies

Our bodies perceive being alone (or with strangers) as an emergency. Thus, our nervous system evolved to produce the anxiety we associate with loneliness.
We breathe fast, our heart races, our blood pressure rises, we don’t sleep. We act fearful, defensive, and self-involved, all of which drive away people who might actually want to help, and tend to stop lonely people from doing what would benefit them most: reaching out to others.

Modern loneliness

According to historian Fay Bound Alberti, modern loneliness is the child of capitalism and secularism.
Many of the divisions and hierarchies that have developed since the 18th century (between the individual and the world, individual and community, public and private) have been naturalized through the politics and philosophy of individualism.

Statistics

  • Before the 20thcentury, about 5% of all households (about 1% of the world population) consisted of just one person. That figure began rising around 1910, driven by urbanization, the decline of live-in servants, a declining birth rate, and the replacement of the traditional, multigenerational family with the nuclear family.
  • During the past half century, for the first time in human history, great numbers of people (of all ages, in all places, of every political preference) have begun settling down as singletons.

The tragedy of loneliness

... is that lonely people can’t see that lots of people feel the same way they do.
Loneliness seems to be such a painful, frightening experience that people will do anything to avoid it. We shut down the lonely, afraid that this might be some kind of a contagious situation.

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Loneliness Is a State of Mind

Loneliness, according to many experts, is not necessarily about being alone. Instead, if you feel alone and isolated, then that is how loneliness plays into your state of mind....

Causes

  • Loneliness is strongly connected to genetics. 
  • Situational variables, such as physical isolation, moving to a new location, divorce and the death of someone significant in a person's life can also lead to feelings of loneliness. 
  • Loneliness can be a symptom of a psychological disorder such as depression.
  • Loneliness can also be attributed to internal factors such as low self-esteem.

Health Risks Associated With Loneliness

Loneliness has a wide range of negative effects on both physical and mental health, including:

  • Depression and suicide
  • Cardiovascular disease and stroke
  • Increased stress levels
  • Decreased memory and learning
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Poor decision-making
  • Alcoholism and drug abuse
  • The progression of Alzheimer's disease
  • Altered brain function

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The epidemic of loneliness

The elderly are lonely. Teens are lonely. People in cities and rural areas are lonely to such an extent that it is considered a public health issue.

One report found that nearly half of r...

Practice small talk

Talk to people you encounter throughout your day. When you enter a coffee shop, make a simple comment about the weather to make impersonal interactions a bit more friendly.

If you practice this small talk in a variety of situations, it's easier to start a conversation with people you want to get to know better.

Get comfortable

Many people desire any company because they don't like the discomfort when they are alone.

Learn to enjoy your own company. Start by reading, watching TED Talks that will make you think, or start a gratitude journal.

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Loneliness

Loneliness can be defined as a complex and unpleasant emotional response to isolation or lack of companionship. 

It can be either transient or chronic, and typically includes

Loneliness is damaging

Lonely people eat and drink more, and exercise and sleep less. They are at higher risk of developing psychological problems such as alcoholism, depression, and psychosis, and physical problems such as infection, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

Loneliness vs Solitude

Loneliness is the pain of being alone and is damaging. Solitude is the joy of being alone and is empowering.

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