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.
According to a recent study, many people prefer to give themselves a mild electric shock than to sit in a room alone with their own thoughts. Loneliness can be defined as a complex and unpleasant emotional response to isolation or lack of companionship.
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 has more to do with our perceptions than how much company we have. It's just as possible to be painfully lonely surrounded by people as it is to be content with little social contact. Some people need extended periods of time alone to recharge, others would rather give themselves electric shocks than spend a few minutes with their thoughts.
One way people have always dealt with loneliness is through creativity. By metamorphosing their reality into art, lonely people throughout history have managed to interchange the sense of community relationships could foster with their creative outputs.
The artist Edward Hopper (1882–1967) is known for his paintings of American cityscapes inhabited by closed-off figures who seem to embody a vision of modern loneliness.
This story is featured in BBC Future's "Best of 2018" collection. Discover more of our picks. I can be a reluctant socialiser. I'm sometimes secretly pleased when social plans are called off. I get restless a few hours into a hangout.