by Jeisyn Murphy, PhD
I just did a search for the term “loneliness” on Google. In .18 seconds, 40,100,000 results were returned. As I read through a few of these links, I found many articles about how to deal with loneliness, saw some statistics showing that loneliness is increasing, and noted various ads for drugs and counseling for people who are lonely. But is being lonely really just all in our head? Researchers from UCL think so and what they’ve found is fascinating.
Dr. Ryota Kanai of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience says, “What we’ve found is the neurobiological basis for loneliness. Before conducting the research we might have expected to find a link between lonely people and the part of the brain related to emotions and anxiety, but instead we found a link between loneliness and the amount of grey matter in the part of the brain involved in basic social perception.” You can read all about the processes of the study here.
For our purposes however, I want to distill the information into a single point: Loneliness is tied to how well you perceive social cues. If you feel lonely, you might not find the answer by creating an account on the next pleasedateme.com site. The researchers suggest (and what I can verify from my coaching and NLP Training practice) is that people can be taught how to read social cues better and learn key patterns regarding social rules in order to increase their success at making lasting friendships and even finding a compatible mate. Put simply: Change your brain, change your reality!
Before continuing, I want to underline the fact that the feelings of loneliness are very real and can be debilitating for some people. I am not discounting this reality. The exciting part of this research however is that the emotion we call “loneliness” is not coming from the part of our brain responsible for other emotions. Rather, loneliness is a signal from our mind telling us that we need updated strategies for making connections to people. If we listen and respond to this signal, we can overcome loneliness. But how?
Three Ways To Overcome Loneliness
- Recognize, as soon as possible, that feeling lonely is a signal that you need to learn how to improve your social life. One way to do this is to get some coaching on how to overcome social anxiety and build rapport. Another option for you is to take some classes on networking (check your local university’s informal class schedule or look for webinars on this topic). You may even want to learn how to fine-tune your ability to read social cues (non-verbal micro-behaviors that relate to socialization) and you can do that right here at Bright Mind!
- Join a support group or interest group in your area. A great non-therapeutic resource is meetup.com. You can find various meetings (some free, some for a fee) that center around a plethora of topics.
- Go where people are. Ultimately the best way to meet other like-minded folks is to go where they are. If your thing is spirituality, visit different synagogues or churches. If you like to dance, take dancing lessons or enter competitions. Whatever it is, go for it. And remember, bringing along another friend or acquaintance can help you overcome the awkwardness of visiting some place new.
So take the plunge. Try out new skills and do something (or a whole bunch of things) differently and you’ll have great results. Good luck!