Lonely yet not alone – Roundtable 59

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Do you look at all that you are, or do you see only all that you are not? Research shows loneliness as a top predictor of those of us who will end up depressed and even in hospital. It signals low intrapersonal IQ, which we can grow and improve in surprising ways, once we see loneliness for what it is.

Our anti-loneliness quotient too often shows low levels of well-being, or an unhealthy sense of personal worth even when surrounded by others who care. Why so, we may wonder and that leads us to question, What causes loneliness for so many? Perhaps even more important is the question, What removes isolation feelings that debilitate a growing number of victims?

Sadly, the loneliness problem has grown to such enormous heights that a Minister of Loneliness was hired in Great Britain. Loneliness that was relegated as more prevalent among the elderly, unfortunately has now become more commonplace among the young. Movements in technology, such as social media has left some people isolated, and without face to face relationships. People who long to be touched, or hugged often overuse our already stretched health care at a cost to all, because we lack an ability to manage mental well-being that prevents loneliness.

Ever notice how special days can tend to bring out serious blues in some? Research tells us that loneliness causes more deaths than smoking or obesity.  Red flags may show up in feelings of severe disappointment, hopelessness, or anxiety, and any of these can pave a mental pathway to depression and loneliness. As loneliness grows to epidemic proportions, Britain has adopted a loneliness minister to help create strategies against this toxic problem.

First glances  show people for whom loneliness replays in spite of friends, family ties, or holiday get-togethers. It comes from and sustains a low intrapersonal IQ. Loneliness can spread its toxins in a sense of misery, or fears of lost opportunity  stored in your amygdala, and that rerun reaction explains feelings of isolation regardless of cheerful situations you may encounter.

Loneliness increases cortisol stress chemicals which explains why some people suffer from feelings of isolation even at family feasts where others enjoy holiday happiness. How so?

  • Pleasure centers of lonely people light up with images of objects faster than with images of other people.
  • Lonely people tend to increase their sense of alienation by not seeking out interactions with others, as they don’t see how these interactions will satisfy personal friendship cravings.

That scrooge image, where a person may have loads of money yet no friends likely illustrates best, the human brain on loneliness. Not surprisingly, imaging of a lonely person’s brain also shows less activity in areas of the brain that understand other’s views or needs, and so further distance themselves from social bonding.

Loneliness is bad for our health

Still unsure if loneliness comes more from your gene pool or from social experiences?  Researchers shows how toxic outcomes from loneliness may be a bit of both.  Feelings of isolation often lead to serious cases depression, obesity, high blood pressure, heart problems, and many stress related illnesses that reshape neural pathways in your brain.

We now know that who remain alone in live tend to die younger and enjoy less quality of life in senior years. Mother Teresa described feelings of being unwanted as “the most terrible poverty.” The Dali Lama suggested that loneliness is more choice than fate. Alone is a merely state of being, while lonely is a toxic state of mind. Choice make the difference here.

If loneliness is bad for your health, and if feelings of isolation are often choices, is it also true that people choose health problems that come from a sense of abandonment?  That answer is less evident in the research and yet will likely be quite clear if you engage intrapersonal intelligence and reflect of how we change and grow mentally.

Loneliness calls for an Intrapersonal reboot

The way we think and act determines if we stall or step-up our intrapersonal IQ, which contains emotional IQ and our ability to increase mental health in spite of difficult situations.  

People with higher Intrapersonal IQ roll forward, in spite of setbacks that pull others down. Lower intrapersonal IQ, in contrast, sticks us in ruts and stalls us into tired routines. See examples below:

1. a). Lower intrapersonal IQ – needs to be liked by all to be content.

1. b). Higher intrapersonal IQ – retains contentment in spite of dislike by some.

2. a). Lower intrapersonal IQ – feels unworthy whenever we fail, so seeks perfection

2. b). Higher intrapersonal IQ – accepts failures and exchanges perfectionism for excellence

3.  a). Lower intrapersonal IQ – feels stupid and without hope after making mistakes

3. b). Higher intrapersonal IQ – apologizes, enjoys letting go, starts again, and enjoys hope

4. a). Lower intrapersonal IQ – blames self when things go wrong and fails to fix.

4. b). Higher intrapersonal IQ – admits wrongdoing – and focuses on crafting new starts

5. a). Lower intrapersonal IQ – fears the worst will happen and leaves us miserable

5. b). Higher intrapersonal IQ – accepts that stuff happens and finds new paths forward

6. a). Lower intrapersonal IQ – worries failure will always or mostly define us

6. b). Higher intrapersonal IQ – accepts failure and then attempts to improve next time

7. a). Lower intrapersonal IQ – depends on stronger people to show our best way forward

7. b). Higher intrapersonal IQ – avoids dependency or enabling reliance in favor of growth

8.  a). Lower intrapersonal IQ – denies, runs from, or avoids facing inevitable conflicts

8. b). Higher intrapersonal IQ – faces problems while taking an active role to improve situation

9. a). Lower intrapersonal IQ – fears being alone for events that typically include others

9. b). Higher intrapersonal IQ – enjoys being alone at times and engages some events alone

10. a). Lower intrapersonal IQ – blames failure on our past and sees past handicaps as fixed

10. b). Higher intrapersonal IQ – dreams beyond past injustices and strategizes finer future

The benefits of growing higher intrapersonal IQ include a lifetime of contentment, even when others might expect us to be anxious or stressed. The counterpoint to low intrapersonal IQ which fills us with cortisol’s toxins, is an ever growing intrapersonal IQ, which ensures we remain deeply content and resilient, even in the face of disappointment, failure or life’s underbelly that can try to sink us when we least expect. Worth a shot at intrapersonal growth in any one area above? Each time we act with higher intrapersonal intentions, we grow new neural connections to rebooted directions. Spot any high road toward the wonder and delight of increased intrapersonal IQ here?

Rewire ahead to ensure holiday well being

Don’t allow your birthday, or a family holiday to go south. With a few mental adjustments, that business boom need not come at personal expense this holiday season. Fortunately, you possess a unique ability to rewire negative emotions  stored in your amygdala – from feeling isolated and bitter –  to fully expecting fun with others in this holiday season.  How so?

Act now on what you’d value in your future.  Research shows how actions literally reshape your brain for more of what you expect.

Smile, regardless of how you feel, for example, and your brain’s plasticity changes in your favor. The action triggers your brain to create new neuron pathways toward a happier reality.

Give even a small gift of encouragement or support, without conditions, and in spite of personal loss.  In response, your brain raises levels of serotonin chemicals for sustainable well being.

Mimic the actions of a person you most admire for their holiday spirit, and your brain rewires dendrite brain cells for more of the same admirable spirit in you. Develop a new intelligence at the same time, and your brain rewires itself for further growth in that area.

Laugh, especially at yourself, and not only will others laugh with you, but your brain will create enzymes for clear thinking, better learning and adventures brimming over with possibilities in spite of turbulent times.

Discover one new insight by converting a rut into a renewed reality you’d like others to see in you. Phone one person you dislike today and invite that person to lunch to find out what’s working well in life. Curiosity and this call moves your brain’s basal ganglia from the rut of loathing into newly created possibilities lived from within your working memory.

Support one person who thinks on the opposing side of your own holiday views, and watch how your concrete defense of that person will leave you mentally able to override your brain’s default for ruts that held you back in past. The action shows you new possibilities where you may have slipped into limiting problems in past.

Can you see how brain based recommendations here carry you beyond hopeful or positive thinking? Do a few simple behaviors, and your brain does the rest for you.

Use any one of the above brainpower tools by simply doing a related act and you’ll spark brain cell regeneration for more satisfaction over any holiday.  Or create a brain power tool of your own and then use it, in spite of troubled times. Scientifically speaking, these tips come from neurogenesis research on how adult brains can grow new cells or regenerate old ones.

Worth a try to communicate colors where you once showed only sorrow for a festive event? Looking to help a peer or loved one amp up their anti-loneliness quotient? Then check out these brain based tools to help reshape finer choices.

YOUR TURN! What will your lonliness strategy be? Join our Brain Based Circles! Would love to meet you at any of the following!

Created by Ellen Weber, Brain Based Tasks for Growth Mindset

This tool is available on my TpT site

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