Its normal to feel lonely from time to time but it should never be the norm.
In recent years researchers have learnt a lot about how the brain regulates emotion and cognition, but there is still a lot to learn around the social elements of the brain. We do know that social contact can have an incredible effect on the brain; it stimulates multiple brain areas at once including memory, emotion and language. This can make social stimulation particularly powerful for growing new neural connections.
We are all social beings
Humans are social beings, much of our success as a species can be attributed to our ability to work together effectively; we share mirror neurons that allow us to match each other’s emotions unconsciously and immediately. We leak emotions to each other. We anticipate and mirror each other’s movements when we’re in sympathy or agreement with one another. And we can mirror each other’s brain activity when we’re engaged in storytelling and listening – both halves of the communication conundrum.
These incredible social aspects of the brain have an inherent link with our overall health, and we see that people suffer when social interaction is limited.
If you are lonely you are not alone
45% of adults feel occasionally, sometimes or often lonely in England. This equates to twenty five million people.
The most well-known outcomes of loneliness are depression and anxiety. A survey carried out for Age UK in 2017 revealed that nearly half of adults aged 55+ said they had experienced depression and around the same number have suffered with anxiety.
The growing loneliness crisis is hard to attribute to one cause but on a societal level we have seen major shifts in behaviors over recent decades; we live further apart, often connecting superficially via social media and live a much more fast-paced life.
The urgent need to tackle loneliness is gaining mainstream recognition with the government launching a strategy that promises support for all local health and care systems by 2023.