We, as human beings, like to be alone every now and then. But at the same time we don’t want to be alone too much. Loneliness feels like a threatening concept. Managing our exposure to each other is a complicated thing though. Everyone needs alone time indeed, but experts agree that we need a considerable amount of human interaction and a few deep, meaningful connections to feel that warm, satisfying feeling known as contentment. What exactly happens in your body when you’re feeling lonely?
Physical manifestations of feeling lonely
The physical manifestations of feeling lonely are real. Luckily, the solutions to loneliness are also real and very simple. Let’s talk about loneliness together. Here are four things that happen in your body when you’re lonely.
1. Your body is making more cortisol
You probably know that your body produces more cortisol when you’re stressed. So it is no surprise that cortisol levels are lower when you’re able to socialize. Studies show that those who complain or share their issues with a friend about their problems feel physical relief after venting. When you are able to talk about your problems with a co-worker or a friend, you’re less physically stressed. Too much cortisol is something your body can’t handle well. Talk out your issues with a friend before you bottle up the problems and get overwhelmed.
2. Your nervous system goes into fight-or-flight mode
When you’re lonely, research shows that your brain can produce an excess of norepinephrine. That is hormone that’s a crucial “signal during the fight or flight response.” When your body responds to stress by activating fight-or-flight responses, it becomes harder to shut down at the end of the day and rest. Unless you have plans to be productive in your solitude, try leaving your apartment to meet a friend to take a break from your brain.
3. Your white blood cells elevate causing inflammation
While the hormone cortisol fights inflammation, the fight-or-flight response that loneliness causes drives your body to produce norepinephrine. This actually elevates your white blood cell production and shuts down your bodies natural viral defences. It’s a sort of vicious cycle: you’re stressed and your cortisol levels are elevated, but you’re a little panicky, so your body is less sensitive to the beneficial, inflammation-lowering aspect of cortisol.
4. Your body becomes colder
In 2012, researchers found that just the idea of being ignored socially was enough to make a person’s body temperature drop. Loneliness can be remedied by both the figurative, psychological warmth of social interaction and actual physical warmth that mimics it, like a cup of hot coffee held between your hands. The mind-body connection between physical warmth and the feeling of being loved is real!
Are you feeling lonely?
Humans are social beings: we are not made to be alone all the time. If you are feeling lonely, text a friend to ask if they would like to hang out. Grab a coffee, go for a walk or make a nice meal together.