If there’s a single lesson to be learned from this pandemic, it has to be how much people really need each other, not in the emotional sense, but in a much deeper, more profound, psychological sense that nearly everyone shares during these unusual times.
What is that psychological need?
Why do we feel the desire to be around other people?
One would think that staying home would be a desirable thing to do – and it is, but not all the time, every day for months on end!
There is an inner need for interaction with others, for socialization, for things as simple and frequently taken for granted as seeing friends and relatives. All of us look forward to time away from work, for vacations, and even being given the chance to work from home. And, as attractive as those things sound, being told to stay at home can become depressing and give us the answer to why people need each other.
The answer is loneliness.
To successfully cope with the coronavirus, we’ve been given the formula to follow: Social distancing, wearing a mask, frequent hand washing, not touching our faces, and staying home. But strictly following those guidelines can create such profound loneliness that some people, particularly young people who think they’re indestructible anyway, will ignore the foregoing guidelines and go to the beach or other gathering places and simply take their chances of contracting the coronavirus in exchange for the satisfaction of being around other people. It makes one wonder which is worse, the risk of getting the virus or of being lonely. Quoting from an article in “Psychology Today,” here’s what loneliness can do: “According to the late John McCain, the worst part of the torture he endured in Vietnam was solitary confinement: ‘It’s an awful thing, solitary. It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.’”
Here’s more proof from an article in the NBC News BETTER that we need each other to avoid loneliness and find happiness: “Human beings are an ultra-social species – and our nervous systems expect to have others around us, Emiliana Simon-Thomas, PhD, Science Director of the Greater Good Science Center at The University of California, Berkeley, tells NBC News BETTER. In short, according to biology, neuroscience, psychology, and more, our bodies actually tend to work better when we’re around not alone.”
“Being lonely has been linked to worse physical and emotional health outcomes and poorer wellbeing. Plus, a lack of social support can directly affects our potential for experiencing happiness, explains Simon-Thomas, who studies the biology of our emotions and thinking. ‘We’re built to really seek social companionship and understanding.’”
“Here are four reasons why:
1. Being around other people makes us healthier.
Physiologically, not having a social support system is actually a source of chronic stress for our bodies, Simon-Thomas explains. Studies show that when people feel lonelier they have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. And that type of chronic stress raises risk of cardiovascular disease and other challenges to health and wellness.
2. Our brains seem to work better when we work together.
There’s a growing body of evidence that suggest our brains actually function better when we’re interacting with others and experiencing togetherness.
3. Psychologically, we prefer to go through life not alone.
Psychology says that part of human nature’s default mode is to be social. One theory: people have an innate (and very powerful) need to belong. Some key arguments (published in the journal Psychological Bulletin in 1995) is evidence that shows most people make social ties under most conditions — and most people try to avoid breaking those ties if they can.
4. When we’re around people who drive us crazy, we grow.
So what about the coworker who cannot stop preaching his political views? Or your friend’s best friend who you just cannot stand to be around? Its good when relationships challenge us, says Simon-Thomas.
They can help us extend our status quo and how we see the world, she explains. ‘These “being driven crazy” moments are truly well thought of as opportunities for growth and transformation, which can ultimately be a more poignant source of sustained happiness.”
So, do we need to be around each other? There appears to be a vast body of evidence that we do. During this pandemic that’s not what we’re told to do. We’re supposed to stay at home if we can to void the coronavirus and if we must be around others – wear a mask, stay at least six feet apart, and avoid any sort of physical contact. I’ve come to the conclusion that doing all those things just to get out of the house and be around other people is better than staying home and becoming lonely because we haven’t seen friends or family for weeks on end. I’m not suggesting that we should ignore the risks, what I am suggesting is there is a safe and sensible balance to avoid contracting the virus and to also avoid being lonely.
That’s —30— for this week.