Loneliness


Everybody feels lonely from time to time. When we have no one to sit next to at lunch, when we move to a new city, or when nobody has time for us at the weekend. But over the last few decades, this occasional feeling has become chronic for millions. In the UK, 60% of 18 to 34-year-olds
say they often feel lonely. In the US, 46% of the entire
population feel lonely regularly. We are living in the most
connected time in human history. And yet, an unprecedented number of us feel isolated. Being lonely and being alone are not the same thing. You can be filled with bliss by yourself and hate every second surrounded by friends. Loneliness is a purely subjective, individual experience. If you feel lonely, you are lonely. A common stereotype is that loneliness only happens to people who don’t know how to talk to people, or how to behave around others. But population-based studies have shown that social skills make practically no difference for adults when it comes to social connections. Loneliness can affect everybody: money, fame, power, beauty, social skills, a great personality; Nothing can protect you against loneliness because it’s part of your biology. Loneliness is a bodily function, like hunger. Hunger makes you pay attention
to your physical needs. Loneliness makes you pay attention
to your social needs. Your body cares about your social needs,
because millions of years ago it was a great
indicator of how likely you were to survive. Natural selection rewarded
our ancestors for collaboration, and for
forming connections with each other. Our brains grew and became more and more fine-tuned to recognize what others thought and felt, and to form and sustain social bonds. Being social became part of our biology. You were born into groups of 50 to 150 people which you usually stayed with for the rest of your life. Getting enough calories, staying safe and warm, or caring for offspring was practically impossible alone. Being together meant survival. Being alone meant death. So it was crucial that you got along with others. For your ancestors, the most dangerous threat to survival was not being eaten by a lion, but not getting the social vibe of
your group and being excluded. To avoid that, your body came up with ‘social pain’. Pain of this kind is an
evolutionary adaptation to rejection: a sort of early warning system to make sure
you stop behavior that would isolate you. Your ancestors who experienced rejection as more painful were more likely to change their behavior when they got rejected and thus stayed in the tribe, while those who did
not got kicked out and most likely died. That’s why rejections hurt. And even more so, why loneliness is so painful. These mechanisms for keeping us connected worked great for most of our history, until humans began building a new world for themselves. The loneliness epidemic we see today
really only started in the late Renaissance. Western culture began to focus on the individual. Intellectuals moved away from the collectivism of the Middle Ages, while the young Protestant theology stressed individual responsibility. This trend accelerated during the Industrial Revolution. People left their villages and fields to enter factories. Communities that had existed for hundreds of years began to dissolve, while cities grew. As our world rapidly became modern,
this trend sped up more and more. Today, we move vast distances for new jobs, love and education, and leave our social net behind. We meet fewer people in person, and we
meet them less often than in the past. In the US, the mean number of close friends
dropped from 3 in 1985 to 2 in 2011. Most people stumble into chronic
loneliness by accident. You reach adulthood
and become busy with work, university, romance, kids and Netflix.
There’s just not enough time. The most convenient and easy thing to sacrifice
is time with friends. Until you wake up one day and
realize that you feel isolated; that you yearn for close relationships. But it’s hard to find close connections as adults and so, loneliness can become chronic. While humans feel pretty great about
things like iPhones and spaceships, our bodies and minds are fundamentally
the same they were 50,000 years ago. We are still biologically fine-tuned
to being with each other. Large scale studies have shown that the stress that comes from chronic loneliness is among the most unhealthy things
we can experience as humans. It makes you age quicker, it makes cancer deadlier, Alzheimer’s advance faster,
your immune systems weaker. Loneliness is twice as deadly as obesity and
as deadly as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. The most dangerous thing about it is that once it becomes chronic, it can become self-sustaining. Physical and social pain use common mechanisms in your brain. Both feel like a threat, and so, social pain leads to immediate and defensive behaviour when it’s inflicted on you. When loneliness becomes chronic,
your brain goes into self-preservation mode. It starts to see danger and hostility everywhere. But that’s not all. Some studies found that when you’re lonely, your brain is much more receptive and alert to social signals, while at the same time, it gets worse
at interpreting them correctly. You pay more attention to others but you understand them less. The part of your brain
that recognises faces gets out of tune and becomes more likely to categorize neutral faces as hostile, which makes it distrustful of others. Loneliness makes you assume the worst
about others’ intentions towards you. Because of this perceived hostile world, you can become up more self-centered to protect yourself, which can make you appear more cold, unfriendly and socially awkward than you really are. If loneliness has become a strong presence in your life, the first thing you can do is to try to recognise the vicious cycle you may be trapped in. It usually goes something like this: An initial feeling of isolation leads to feelings of tension and sadness, which makes you focus your attention selectively on negative interactions with others. This makes your thoughts about
yourself and others more negative, which then changes your behavior. You begin to avoid social interaction, which leads to more feelings of isolation. This cycle becomes more severe
and harder to escape each time. Loneliness makes you sit far away from others in class, not answer the phone when friends call, decline invitations until the invitations stop. Each and every one of us has a story about ourselves, and if your story becomes that people exclude you, others pick up on that, and so the outside world can become the way you feel about it. This is often a slow creeping process that takes years, and can end in depression and a mental state that prevents connections, even if you yearn for them. The first thing you can do to escape it is to
accept that loneliness is a totally normal
feeling and nothing to be ashamed of. Literally, everybody feels lonely at some
point in their life, it’s a universal human experience. You can’t eliminate or ignore
a feeling until it goes away magically, but you can accept that you
feel it and get rid of its cause. You can self-examine what you focus
your attention on, and check if you are
selectively concentrating on negative things. Was this interaction with a colleague really negative,
or was it really neutral or even positive? What was the actual content of an interaction? What did the other person say? And did they say something bad,
or did you add extra meaning to their words? Maybe another person was not really
reacting negatively, but just short on time. Then, there are your thoughts about the world.
Are you assuming the worst about others’ intentions? Do you enter a social situation
and have already decided how it will go? Do you assume others don’t want you around? Are you trying to avoid being hurt
and not risking opening up? And, if so, can you try
to give others the benefit of the doubt? Can you just assume that they’re not against you? Can you risk being open and vulnerable again? And lastly, your behaviour. Are you avoiding opportunities to be around others?
Are you looking for excuses to decline invitations? Or are you pushing others away
preemptively to protect yourself? Are you acting as if you’re getting attacked? Are you really looking for new connections,
or have you become complacent with your situation? Of course, every person
and situation is unique and different, and just introspection alone might not be enough. If you feel unable to solve your situation by yourself, please try to reach out and get professional help.
It’s not a sign of weakness, but of courage. However we look at loneliness, as a purely individual problem that needs solving to create more personal happiness, or as a public health crisis, it is something that deserves more attention. Humans have built a world that’s nothing short of amazing, and yet, none of the shiny things we’ve made is able to satisfy or substitute our fundamental biological need for connection. Most animals get what they need from their physical surroundings. We get what we need from each other, and we need to build our
artificial human world based on that. Let’s try something together:
let’s reach out to someone today, regardless if you feel a little bit lonely,
or if you want to make someone else’s day better. Maybe write a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Call a family member who’s become estranged. Invite a work buddy for a coffee, Or just go to something you’re usually too afraid to go to or too lazy to go to, like a D&D event or a sports club. Everybody’s different,
so you know what’s a good fit for you. Maybe nothing will come of it, and that’s okay.
Don’t do this with any expectations. The goal is just to open up a bit; to exercise your connection muscles,
so they can grow stronger over time, or to help others exercise them. We want to recommend two of the books
we read while researching this video. ‘Emotional First Aid’ by Guy Winch,
a book that addresses, among other topics, how to deal with loneliness in a way that we found helpful and actionable and ‘Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection’ by John Cacioppo and William Patrick. It’s an entertaining and scientific exploration as to why we experience loneliness on a biological level, how it spread in society and what science
has to say about how to escape it. Links for both books are in the video description. Thanks for watching. Don’t forget to subscribe!

About the author

Comments

  1. We designed a poster on this topic as well. You can find it here: https://standard.tv/collections/in-a-nutshell/products/in-a-nutshell-loneliness-poster

  2. "the first thing you do is accepting that loneliness is a normal feeling"
    you ask how do i handle all those pain?
    i dont handle them, i simply live with the pain

  3. I used to be stuck in the cycle of loneliness. But now I'm not, and I'm thinking I'm extremely lucky after reading these comments on this video. How did I do it? Stop giving a shit about what people think about you. Give a shit on accepting who you are, warts and all. If you have a weird personality, embrace it. If others poke fun at you for it, poke fun at yourself also. Anyone can shit on you, but you determine your own response, and by making a big deal out of it you are making it a lot worse than it actually is. If someone makes fun of a quirk, turn it into a joke that can make people laugh with you, rather than at you. By turning the situation around, you are undermining their insults and making yourself out to be an enjoyable person to be around. Two birds with one stone.

  4. Well
    0 friend
    “Had alot” most of them don’t want you to achieve anything ,jealousy and other things..
    I don’t talk to them anymore
    Not that good with health
    Major Depression disorder, High Anxiety
    Stress …., lot of problems, and writing this alone in a bar , while watching this , sucks

  5. Being lonely is not about living alone or being alone, I’ve actually felt very lonely when surrounded by people. It’s a feeling that you don’t fit in, and that no one understands you, it’s a feeling that comes about when there’s no one you can relate to emotionally.

  6. Now that your aware of this couldn't you just ignore this adaptation? I'm 15 been without friends whole life and it ain't got me down any.

  7. Everything in this video is true but hasn't loneliness become the norm? I rarely attend social gatherings, rarely answer calls, rarely visit people.

  8. Everybody I used to like now enjoy stuff I don’t, it’s become impossible to socialise in an open way because not many people have integrity and will not keep information to themselves, they enjoy humour I find childish, so I just lock myself away like I’m in prison, I’ve tried believe me.

  9. I am just here to make fun of lonely people…just joking. Listen to "Relief" song from John Frusciante…"coz what you neeeddd you areeee ohhhhh ohhhhh"

  10. My cat just got adopted to another family T-T Now I have no one that would be happy when Im home and awake ;(

  11. I big virtual hug for all of you, and yeah I know probably we would't even talk in real life but we dont need our armour in social media hehe 🙂 a very safe virtual hug to start for you <3

  12. What Kurzgesagt is saying is you need to get friends or die.
    SO DON'T YOU DARE BE AUTISTIC
    no ur cool dont let anyone tell u otherwise

  13. You know what for lonely people out there you(actually we) need to get socialised with more who don't expect us to be someone according to them but accept us for what we are am I right?😊😇have a nice day

  14. i like this story this story same like me im in home always lonelies…i never go anywhare..just stay in house..dont want to see peapole cause i think peapole dont like me..

  15. I have a question, what about people who just love being alone. Like me.

    I move to a new country, living here almost a year now. I'm totally alone, I dont even talk to my coworkers. Silence is so nice. I find people to be a distraction and sensible. I have no time to waste on everyday talk.

    I have 3 friends, talk to them like twice month just because I have to use my call min. If that wasnt the case twice a year would have been enough.

  16. Wow, I don't how YouTube read my thought. I was alone and sad for the whole day and this video was very satisfying 👌.

  17. Is talking to yourself a sign of chronic loneliness?. Is talking to yourself a way for your brain to prevent chronic loneliness?. If you feel satisfaction being alone rather than been with people, then what does that mean?.

  18. Maybe I have a weird condition. I never feel lonely. In 2nd grade (I was 7 or 8), I moved to a different country leaving all my friends and having almost none at time. I did feel this horrible feeling of loneliness. But I never ever felt loneliness despite moving to different countries/places after that. I have a lot of friends though wherever I go and I'm very close to many of them, but I never feel lonely when they're not there. I NEVER miss any of my friends (I do miss eating certain foods not available in the current country and I sometimes miss talking in a certain language that I rarely use anymore, but I don't miss people). I would remember fun or funny times with my friends and laugh all by myself, but would then never after that call/text them. There were times when I'm talking to groups of friends and they're surprised at how I never call my parents or could stay in my room for two months over the summer break (and only go outside to get something to eat, by myself). And this is what made me realize that I'm not like other people, because unlike me, others feel loneliness. I also never feel bored, but I think that's because of my ADHD. I also NEVER call or text my friends or family members, they always text/call me first. I only respond or keep comunicating with them until a problem is resolved. I also only call people when I need something or when I feel they might need something, but never call when there is no need. And I feel really bad that I rarely call/text them first or "just ask how they are or what they've been up to" like they do to me. I quit social media around 8-10 years ago because it felt like a chore/burden to keep up with all of their messages and I feel like I was wasting a big part of my time just answering them and it was so taxing on me because replying their messages required so much brain power and I get exhausted. I didn't want to make them feel unwanted by ignoring them, so I did eventually take several days to answer just to answer a long list of old messages and many of them would say "OMG, I asked you that question 4 months ago and you're answering me now???". I would feel great for days after having answered all those messages and would start feeling bad and worse as the messages start to pile up once again, until I quit social media altogether so that no one would ever have to wonder why I'm not answering them.

    I have watched almost all kurzgesagt videos, except for this one. I only decided to watch it after the 'Can You Trust Kurzgesagt Videos?' mentioned that this video took one and a half years to make. However, this video makes a good point about how loneliness might've given some people an evolutionary advantage of surviving than those who don't feel it and that's why it's so wide spread among humans (maybe my condition is caused by a genetic mutation or only a small percentage of the people are like me). Anyway, this video makes me realize the importance of keeping up with some of the text messages that asks "Where are you right now?", "When are you going to come and visit me/us?" or "Hey, what are you doing right now?", because even though I don't miss my friends and family, I still do care a lot for them. Thanks Kurzgesagt!!:)

  19. Maybe I just love being alone as I see clear perspective of social standard. And you know, sometimes when you be with someone or some group you shouldn't be and then you end up in a bad place. I might sounds like discouraging but believe me I don't have intention to do so and I admit some of the point was me and it's true.

  20. I've been deprived of physical affection and love my entire life, I feel so sad and empty, I wish to live forever but it feels like I'm dying everyday.

  21. I cry out of hard depression and loneliness while watching the stars and i always imagine that a spaceship full of aliens will come pick me up cz im really tired… Well i know that no one cares ❤

  22. I am currently reading a book called ‘Feeling Good’ and it deals with similar themes as this video. It describes the technique of cognitive behavioural therapy and it is genuinely changing my life for the better. Anyone who needs a little help getting out of a negative and lonely mindset can really benefit from it

  23. I don't sit next to people because then they just stop talking
    like I don't want to disrupt your conversation

  24. But what if you're surrounded by good people, an endearing partner, awesome friends and amazing family members but you still feel empty and lonely inside? What does that mean then?

    I've been questioning myself for the longest time because this feeling seems so irrelevant when I have almost everything I could ever ask for. I truly, honestly, feel like I am a caged bird despite being content with what I have. I don't get it either, what is it that I yearn? Why do I still feel so lonely? What is this crushing feeling that constantly wrecks my heart and rips my soul apart?

    I feel like I am dying, but I am very much alive. This sucks. I want to get rid of this feeling, I just want to live normally.

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