We all feel lonely at times. Loneliness results from not experiencing what is called empathy. Empathy occurs when the neurons in our brains are doing the same things that those around us are doing. They are called mirror neurons. It is seen when everyone else in a crowd yawns in response to one person yawning. Empathy however, occurs at an emotional level. Neurons in the limbic system of our brain are in sync with those persons around us.
How can we not feel lonely?
Since loneliness results from our brains not being in sync with the brains of others around us, we need to “get into their space.” Not physically, but emotionally. However, it turns out that doing physical things together also helps. How close do we feel on the dance floor? We are all listening and moving to the same music.
We developed the capacity for empathy from childhood. We all know that babies that are not cared for in an emotional way do not thrive. In fact many die despite adequate food and other physical care. Children, whose parents were emotionally distant while they were infants, often have a lifelong feeling of loneliness.
The good news is that we can be less lonely. That means we need to feel cared for. We do not need others to start the process for us. We can expand the process without depending upon others to step forward.
Here are four action areas you can try out to reduce your loneliness:
- Care for yourself. it turns out when we treat ourselves well we feel it. But some of the things that our bodies need are not junk food and other treats.
- We need adequate water. That is just plain old water. While the exact amount of water is not clear, we have all felt the sensation of drinking enough water mid gulp. So several times a day drink until full. If you do it before meals you are less apt to over eat.
- We also need sleep. How often do you feel tired during the day? This is because we have not had enough sleep over night. Most people function best with 8 hours of sleep a night. Allowing at least this much each and every night will leave you more energized during the day. Increased energy will help you get more done.
- Our bodies were made for activity. We need to get some exercise regularly. A hard physical workout several times a week gets the kinks out and makes our bodies work more efficiently.
- Relax and connect with what is going on around you. The things I am talking about are natural things. Our breath is the most convenient thing to connect with. This process is called meditation. When we get into deeper practices our brains actually grow new neural connections.
- Watch out for caring. You will notice yourself and others caring for people around you. Acknowledge yourself for the caring you do. See how acts of caring make others feel.
- Care for and about others. That means watch them and offerassistance. Don’t you feel good when youare able to help someone else? You have connected with their need and actedaccordingly.
- Yet we as humans need so much more. If we can be curious about what others are doing and feeling we will automatically connect. But don’t just get the facts, get the feelings, too.
- Make new friends. As a physician I noted how so many people in nursing homes were lonely. They were separated from or had out lived their former friends and family. Those who could make new friends were not lonely. Making new friends is a lifelong task.
- Let others get close to you.
- Helping is a two way street. If no one let themselves be helped, who would you help? If they noticed you needed help they were paying attention to you. Now you can find out more about them. you might just find a new friend
- Reach out to others. How much do you know about those people you meet each day? Why not suggest that you get together for a cup of coffee or a meal. These will be opportunities to connect on a more personal level.
- Ask for help. Are there tasks or other things you struggle with? How often have you seen friends who go shopping together? If you watch them in the store you will see that they are sharing not just the shopping but the other things that weigh on their minds as well.
- Take time each day to reflect upon your life. What did you do? How did it make you feel? How might you connect better with others?
There are many other things you can do to be less lonely. What are some of your favorite things that make you feel less lonely?
So, “when you seek out others, you enjoy others.”
Note: this is the eighth blog in my series based on Brendon Burchard’s book, The Charge. You can read the rest by clicking on the link to the right.
Feel free to share this with the lonely ones in your life.