With a chronic illness having some alone time is fine. To recharge. Have a nap. For some much-needed self-care time. To engage in a hobby that is meaningful to you. This is fine because it is controlled and temporary. Not to mention introverts love alone time and need it to recharge. It is more being alone, than lonely.
Too much time alone, when we self-isolate, for example, is not so good. It can become being lonely, and not being alone. It isn’t good for anyone. Humans are social creatures it seems. It doesn’t even take long to cause problems when they did isolation experiments. But we self-isolate because of stress, pain, depression, and anxiety. We feel too unwell to get out of the house and to socialize. It can make depression worse.
The University of Chicago researchers showed lonely and non-lonely subjects photographs of people in both pleasant settings and unpleasant settings. When viewing the pleasant pictures, non-lonely subjects showed much more activity in a section of the brain known as the ventral striatum than the lonely subjects. The ventral striatum plays an important role in learning. It’s also part of the brain’s reward center, and can be stimulated by rewards like food and love. The lonely subjects displayed far less activity in this region while viewing pleasant pictures, and they also had less brain activity when shown the unpleasant pictures. When non-lonely subjects viewed the unpleasant pictures, they demonstrated activity in the temporoparietal junction, an area of the brain associated with empathy; the non-lonely subjects had a lesser response [source: University of Chicago].How stuff works
A 2013 study published in the journal Psychological Science found social isolation increased people’s likelihood of death by 26 percent, even when people didn’t consider themselves lonely. Social isolation and living alone were found to be even more devastating to a person’s health than feeling lonely.Medical Daily
ocial isolation impairs immune function and boosts inflammation, which can lead to arthritis, type II diabetes, and heart disease. Loneliness is breaking our hearts, but as a culture we rarely talk about it.
So we are hermitting and what do we do about this?
It can be challenging to break this habit to say the least. We need at least one family member or friend as a participant. Or you go find them.
Some ideas are:
- On days you cannot get out and about you invite someone over to do something you like. Play cards, watch a Netflix movie, play video games or sit and chat over coffee or tea.
- On a day you can handle just a little suggest going to lunch or coffee with a friend.
- On a day when you can handle more go over to a friends house for a small gathering to do something you enjoy. Movie marathon? Game night?
- Pick something to do out in the world that you can conceivably handle if prepared.
- If you have hermitted for some time you may not have anyone to do anything with in this case: a) volunteer somewhere with flexible hours to be around people or get to know them. b) join a group like a book club, or if there isn’t one, start one. There are usually clubs for various different things. Things you might want to try. It can be difficult in smaller areas. Where I live in a smaller city there is not as much, for example. So more likely, in rural areas for people to create a club and meet in the nearest town or small city. I remember I went to a writing club in a town and there were about 8 of us in it, but it was fantastic. c) try local places that may have game nights like at coffee shops… they play an assortment of games you can get involved in, in groups. Or start such a club.
As an introvert and someone with depression who self-isolates, I know this is a hard feat to manage. As an introvert, I am happy if I get out and about once or twice a month, though. I am rarely lonely. As someone with depression, I understand I do need to do it once or twice a month for the boost to my mood. There is no firm line on this though. You may need more socialization time or less. Extroverts obviously want more as this makes them feel energized, instead of rather tires. So it is important to an extrovert to find ways to connect to people even with health issues. Less likely they disconnect as much as an introvert. But when an extrovert self-isolates they are more likely to feel disconnected from it. An introverted is lulled into isolation because we are not lonely by ourselves. It takes time for isolation to kick in.