What makes us lonely and how it changes our body and mind

Unless you really enjoy your own company, you probably hate feeling lonely. It’s never particularly fun, especially if you’re not in a great headspace. The last thing you want when you’re feeling down is not to have anyone around to cheer you up. Unfortunately, not only is loneliness bad for your social life, but it can also have a significant impact on your mind and body.

The cause of loneliness

As much as we’d love to put the cause of loneliness down to one thing, it’s actually the result of multiple factors. Two people can feel as lonely as one another but for entirely different reasons. Things like moving to a new town or losing someone you care about can cause loneliness, as can a lack of self-esteem or even a psychological disorder. It’s impossible to pinpoint just one explanation, but no matter what’s caused it, the effects are all still the same.

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Filling the void

There are plenty of reasons why people indulge in food. The obvious need to survive aside, snacking typically happens when someone is upset, angry, or lonely. Food is viewed as something comforting, and so people turn to it to cheer them up. This is no accident. Apparently, when people feel lonely, their bodies increase the production of ghrelin.

This is a hormone which is responsible for hunger. The more of it there is in your body, the greater your desire to eat something. Of course, this then leads to things like weight gain and other health issues, meaning loneliness can actually be dangerous for your body.

Hormones aplenty

Ghrelin isn’t the only hormone that’s impacted by loneliness. The more time you spend by yourself, the higher your cortisol levels rise. This is the hormone that’s produced by stress, so it’s not really what you want floating around in your system. Conversely, your body becomes deficient in dopamine because you’re not getting any pleasure from your surroundings.

While this might seem like a bad thing, the lack of dopamine can actually push you to seek social interaction. Once you do this, your brain releases a massive dose of the hormone as a reward, while your cortisol levels begin to decrease.

Turning cold

Coldness and loneliness are two things that typically go hand in hand, and there’s a good reason for that. According to research from 2012, feeling isolated can actually have an impact on your body temperature. When you’re alone, or even when you just remember a time you felt lonely, you can actually feel colder than if you have company.

The best way to combat this is to fight the cold, both physically and psychologically. Either warm yourself up with a hot drink or blanket, or go out there and talk to someone. It could do you a world of good.

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Attune to your surroundings

While being lonely might seem like the worst thing in the world, it does have a few upsides. For instance, people who spend a lot of time in isolation are actually considered to be better at detecting threats around them. This is because when you’re alone, you don’t have anyone else to protect you if something happens. So, your body has to be more alert to what’s going on in case you need to act.

Of course, if you’re not careful, this could lead to paranoia. Overthinking every little noise you hear is just as detrimental to your health as ignoring everything.

It’s incredible just how our bodies react to loneliness. It makes us want to never be by ourselves again.