The Story of Poor Misrepresented Loneliness….Perhaps one of our biggest fears in life is being alone – being condemned to spending time in the absence of other people, noise or light is actually considered torture in most parts of the world. Its no coincidence that social media is so prolific and always carries with it the narrative that somehow it “connects us”. But this is not another article about the negative effects of facebook or twitter…A recent 10 year study released by John Cappio at the University of Chicago, reckons that loneliness is an evolutionary trait designed to force people to socialise more and even become more introspective. Cappio’s study examined over 200 people on a yearly basis for 10 years and found that loneliness in one year often resulted in greater focus on the self in the next year. He also found that feeling lonely forces us to understand ourselves, what we want and who we are i.e. know ourselves better. This all sounds pretty good right? Well the other blatantly obvious fact is that prolonged loneliness is also a huge risk factor and can bring us to suicide.
For me the antidote to this is obvious and already well researched and understood. Maybe I am simplifying somewhat, but that is because I actually think the answer can be really simple. We are animals designed to live in groups. Loneliness is the antithesis to that. It is normal and ok to feel lonely, but if it is something that you are experiencing in an ongoing way, maybe try volunteering.
Volunteering has powerful positive impacts on us because not only are we interacting with someone, but we are also giving. Maybe this is something that contemporary society has lost its grip with. Giving and charity may have been a cornerstone of society at one point, but industrialisation and the do-for-self attitude of capitalism, the demise of giving recently.
Some of you may be doubting that something like volunteering could be the perfect antidote for loneliness, but ask yourself. Have you ever tried it? Have you ever been lonely while also truly giving something to a stranger?