Tag Archives | Loneliness

Loneliness Kills: What Do We Do About It?

Picture: Bert Kaufmann (CC)

Picture: Bert Kaufmann (CC)

If you’ve got a few minutes to spare, then you may enjoy this New Republic article on the phenomenon of loneliness and its impact on physical health. It’s full of all sorts of interesting asides about who experiences loneliness and why.

The New Republic:

A famous experiment helps explain why rejection makes us flinch. It was conducted more than a decade ago by Naomi Eisenberger, a social psychologist at UCLA, along with her colleagues. People were brought one-by-one into the lab to play a multiplayer online game called “Cyberball” that involved tossing a ball back and forth with two other “people,” who weren’t actually people at all, but a computer program. “They” played nicely with the real person for a while, then proceeded to ignore her, throwing the ball only to each other. Functional magnetic resonance imaging scans showed that the experience of being snubbed lit up a part of the subjects’ brains (the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex) that also lights up when the body feels physical pain.

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Existential Despair? Take Two of These and Call Me in the Morning

Please don't give Tylenol to your existentially-challenged cat.

Please don’t give Tylenol to your existentially-challenged cat.

Interesting research from the University of British Columbia: Apparently Tylenol can also ease aches and pains of the existential kind. Look for new Sartre strength in the “Ennui” aisle of your local drug store:

New research this week found that Tylenol altered the way subjects passed moral judgements. Psychologists used that as a proxy measure for personal distress, a relationship that has been previously demonstrated. Daniel Randles and colleagues at the University of British Columbia write in the journal Psychological Science, “The meaning-maintenance model posits that any violation of expectations leads to an affective experience that motivates compensatory affirmation. We explore whether the neural mechanism that responds to meaning threats can be inhibited by acetaminophen.” Totally. More plainly, “Physical pain and social rejection share a neural process and subjective component that are experienced as distress.” That neural process has been traced to the same part of the brain.

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The Importance Of Being Alone

58728442_8ebe99d8faIn a hyper-connected world, does spending time alone provide a unique and increasingly elusive form of freedom? The Boston Globe extols the virtues of solitude, which a growing body of study suggests is essential for mood, memory, creativity, and sanity:

You hear it all the time: We humans are social animals. We need to spend time together to be happy and functional, and we extract a vast array of benefits from maintaining intimate relationships and associating with groups.

But an emerging body of research is suggesting that spending time alone, if done right, can be good for us — that certain tasks and thought processes are best carried out without anyone else around, and that even the most socially motivated among us should regularly be taking time to ourselves if we want to have fully developed personalities, and be capable of focus and creative thinking.

There is even research to suggest that blocking off enough alone time is an important component of a well-functioning social life — that if we want to get the most out of the time we spend with people, we should make sure we’re spending enough of it away from them.

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