Feel Lonely? There Are 4 Types of Loneliness. Here’s How to Beat Them

Sadly, we all get lonely from time to time, and social distancing and self-isolation certainly don’t help. Here, a psychologist offers her advice for overcoming these feelings of loneliness.

Have you ever gotten into bed at the end of the day and realized that you haven’t spoken out loud to anyone since the day before? Or simply found yourself feeling completely and utterly alone?

We live in a hyper-connected world, and yet we’re lonelier than ever before, a situation that is certainly not helped by the current UK lockdown. We have more social media followers than real-life friends, and it’s easier to swap digital messages with strangers on the other side of the planet than it is to sit down for a chat with an actual person – especially now that we’re social distancing and putting ourselves in isolation.

Despite being traditionally viewed as an affliction that’s limited to the elderly, it’s now 16-24 year olds who make up the loneliest age group of all, a finding confirmed in the UK’s largest study on the subject, The Loneliness Experiment by BBC Radio 4. The study included over 55,000 people and found that 34% of 25-34 year olds are lonely ‘often or very often’ while 36% of 34-44 year olds felt the same.

Now, scientists are warning of the damaging effects of a ‘loneliness epidemic’, with loneliness even being equated to the health equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

As many of us will know, we don’t need to be physically alone to feel lonely. A toxic friendship or relationship can be incredibly isolating, for example, while spending too much time with people we don’t feel close to can have damaging effects on our psyche, even if we’re only interacting with them through our phones. Loneliness affects people in different ways, and for this reason there are four distinct types of loneliness identified by psychologists: emotional, social, situational and chronic.

But how do we know what type of loneliness we’re experiencing and, more importantly, how can we tackle it? Here, Stylist talks to registered psychologist Dr Becky Spelman, and hears from women who have experienced loneliness – and managed to keep it at bay.

Emotional Loneliness

“Those who are emotionally lonely will find it difficult to improve things without tackling the root of the problem,” says Dr Spelman. “Emotional loneliness is not circumstantial but, rather, comes from within.”

Dr Spelman recommends therapy to help tackle the root cause of these feelings of emotional loneliness. “Working with a therapist, possibly with a technique such as behavioural cognitive therapy, or attending group therapy, is likely to lead to the best possible outcome,” she says.

“The person in question can start to understand why they are lonely, how their background and experiences have contributed to behaviours that make things worse, and how they can develop a new, and more useful, set of behaviours.”

Note: Due to coronavirus, face-to-face meetings with therapists may not be possible at this time. However, the NHS is currently working on a new digital therapy programme, and you can find out more information by clicking here

Situational Loneliness

Many millennials choose to work abroad for a few years in their 20s and 30s, and the rise in solo travel means a great number of us are planning to jet off on solo adventures once the coronavirus pandemic has passed.

While these plans are undoubtedly exciting, it can also be a period of adjustment as we try to make new friends while simultaneously getting to grips with a new culture and way of life – potentially leading to situational loneliness, says Dr Spelman.

“Situational loneliness can result from being in circumstances that make developing friendships difficult,” she says. “Examples include those living abroad, perhaps in a place where they do not speak the language perfectly, stay-at-home mothers (or fathers) with young children, or those with a physical or intellectual disability that makes it difficult to get out and about.”

Situational loneliness is something that digital writer Susan experienced when she moved to Dubai for two and a half years in 2013.

“When I first moved to the Middle East, I was completely alone,” she says. “I didn’t have a friend or a family member I could call when the going got tough, or even just someone to have a cup of tea with. It was my choice to move there for work. And it was my choice to move there as a single woman. But that doesn’t mean it was easy.

“The first month was particularly difficult as I spent two weeks in a hotel on my own, surrounded by a completely different culture, customs and language. I felt the sting of loneliness as I dined on my own every evening and looked for a flat share – going from one viewing to the next without understanding a word of Arabic. But after I found somewhere to call home, I made friends with my housemates by putting myself out there and never turning down an invitation to do something new. Thankfully, I pushed myself to get to know them and my new country of residence, too.”

But situational loneliness doesn’t just arise in those who relocate alone, as social media editor Sarah discovered when she moved countries with her partner. Sarah left her Sydney home in March 2017 to join her partner in London, where he had arrived a month earlier to start a new job and find the pair a home to live in – although she admits that “didn’t mean it was smooth sailing”.

“On my first night an emotional (jetlagged) me fell asleep whimpering into my partner’s shoulder, ‘I had to give up a lot to be here’. Although very dramatic, I was more right than wrong. I knew making friends as an adult, outside of freshers’ week or a friend-of-a-friend introduction, would be preceded by a stint of loneliness – something I dreaded.

“The reality of that fear set in a week later. Without a job, I had less interaction with people and felt starved of company. I took to being overly chatty to baristas and the person on the till at Sainsbury’s. Each day I would surf LinkedIn and talk about the weather with anyone mildly inclined to respond. I would look forward to my partner coming home after work for the sheer joy of talking to someone who knew me beyond what groceries I was buying that day.”

Sarah did make friends in the city but she is also aware that “having a partner at home slowed my efforts”.

“There would be times I would crave going out with a friend rather than my partner. But the reality was that in those initial weeks he was my only friend in London. And that made me feel tied to him in a way that we never were in our home town of Sydney.

“It did take a considerable amount of effort to form friendships outside of his friendship circle (formed from his middle-school years in south London). Eighteen months on, I keep working on those friendships outside of my relationship – because I now know how very valuable they are.”

Pushing yourself to make new friends – and crucially, maintain those friendships – is exactly what Dr Spelman recommends for someone who is grappling with situational loneliness. And while we can’t currently make an active effort to meet new people in person due to coronavirus, there are alternative solutions.

“The best approach here is a proactive one,” she says. Once we are out of lockdown and able to socialise in person again, she suggests “joining a language class or a hobby group or getting in touch with like-minded people and actively courting friendships, to help overcome loneliness in these circumstances.

“The internet can help. While socialising online is not the same as meeting up with friends for coffee or a drink, establishing a support network online can help to maintain a sense of being liked and wanted, and keep social skills alive.”

Social Loneliness

“Social loneliness is typically experienced by those who have problems in social situations because of shyness, social awkwardness, or a sense of low self-esteem that makes them doubt their capacity to be competent and entertaining in social circumstances,” Dr Spelman explains.

“Different approaches can help. For example, if the root issue is one of low self-esteem, tackling this first should make a positive difference. Trying a structured approach to socialising, such as joining an online or virtual group that gets together to discuss or engage in a particular hobby, can be a good way to start to end a vicious circle.”

Chronic Loneliness

“Chronic loneliness is the term used to describe those who have been lonely for so long that it has become a way of life to them,” explains Dr Spelman. “If solitude has become part of their nature, it can be tricky to break the cycle.”

Chronic loneliness is something that Lyla, now 26, experienced when she moved to London to start university at the age of 18. Lyla had previously lived in Nottingham where she had a solid group of friends who all lived nearby, and spent a lot of time together. Moving to a new city triggered feelings of loneliness for her, which became entrenched over her first two and a half years in the city.

“It was a really bewildering, lonely time,” she says. “The jump of being plonked into a huge arts school, in just one of hundreds of halls of residence in a sprawling city I didn’t understand, made me retreat into myself and I struggled to make friends in the face of it all.

“I spent a lot of time in my tiny room making my mum talk to me for hours and hours on the phone, while I slowly found my footing and met people I connected with. It took me about two and a half years to learn not to hate London, but sticking it out meant it slowly got better, and nine years later nowhere has ever felt more like home.”

Dr Spelman notes that chronic loneliness is often a by-product of circumstance, such as self-isolation, although unlike situational loneliness, it can go on for so long that it almost becomes a way of life.

“Examples include the elderly whose friends have largely passed away or moved into nursing care, while adult children live far away, or those who are inhibited from socializing by a controlling partner or other circumstances that feel out of their control,” she says. “It is important to remember that we all deserve friends and a social life and that there is nothing wrong with asking for help or making the first step.”

Are you looking to make new friends? See Stylist’s guide to the art of friendship dating here, or find out what happened when we tried friendship apps here.

By: Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Commissioning Editor at Stylist. Follow her on Twitter.

Source: Feel Lonely? There Are 4 Types of Loneliness. Here’s How to Beat Them

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How To Stop Overthinking

Need to know

If you’re an over-thinker, you’ll know exactly how it goes. A problem keeps popping up in your mind – for instance, a health worry or a dilemma at work – and you just can’t stop dwelling on it, as you desperately try to find some meaning or solution. Round and round the thoughts go but, unfortunately, the solutions rarely arrive.

In my daily work as a meta cognitive clinical psychologist, I encounter many people who, in trying to find answers or meaning, or in attempting to make the right decision, spend most of their waking hours scrutinizing their minds for solutions. Ironically, in this process of trying to figure out how to proceed in life, they come to a standstill.

When we spend too much time analyzing our problems and dilemmas, we often end up more at a loss than we were to begin with. On top of that, persistent overthinking can result in a wide range of symptoms such as insomnia, trouble concentrating and loss of energy which, in turn, often leads to further worries regarding one’s symptoms, thereby creating a vicious cycle of overthinking. In some cases, this eventually leads to chronic anxiety or depression.

When overthinking and the associated symptoms spiral and become unbearable, it’s usual for us to look for ways to calm down. Many common strategies sound reasonable or useful, but research shows that they can inadvertently cause more harm than good and typically lead to even more overthinking. You might recognize some of them in your own behavior:

Constantly looking out for threats: there’s nothing wrong with this strategy if you feel in control, but it can quickly backfire. Take health concerns. If, as a way to calm your worries, you start to excessively scan yourself or the people you care about for signs of illness, this threat monitoring will lead only to a heightened sense of danger and more health-related worries.

Another example is constantly keeping an eye out for whether people like you, trying to figure out what they think of you, which inadvertently results in you becoming more distant, non-participatory and worried, and not being able to enjoy their company.

Seeking answers and reassurance: it’s completely natural to seek reassurance from people close to you, and to look for answers as to how to cope better. However, if you come to a point where you depend on these strategies to calm you down and reduce your worries, you’re on a slippery slope.

For instance, some of my clients spend several hours a day Googling, hoping to find reassurance or, at least, an explanation as to why they’re feeling down. Yet this strategy often leads to even more worries, since Googling relatively common symptoms typically yields a wide range of search results, including diagnoses that you hadn’t even thought of.

Excessive planning: of course, there’s nothing wrong with moderate levels of planning. It’s perfectly healthy to keep a calendar or to leave notes for yourself. However, some people plan their lives down to the tiniest detail and this can become problematic. In addition to being rather time-consuming, excessive planning can have other negative effects including exacerbating worries.

For instance, when planning carefully, it’s tempting to try to predict all the things that could possibly interfere with a plan and how to potentially handle such events should they occur, thereby initiating a process of worry. Others plan meticulously because they believe that they won’t be able to cope otherwise, which can lead to excessive worries when planning isn’t possible or unexpected events arise.

Aside from these unhelpful strategies, another key factor that can perpetuate overthinking is your beliefs about thinking (the term ‘meta cognitive’ in ‘meta cognitive therapy’ – the clinical approach I use – actually refers to thinking about thinking). When my clients start meta cognitive therapy, many of them are convinced that they have no control of their thought processes.

They believe that their thoughts just appear and automatically attract attention – and that they can’t control whether these thoughts develop into hour-long ruminations about how bad things are now, or into catastrophic worries about what could go wrong in the future.

I have some good news: you don’t have to live with excessive worry. It’s an enduring myth that overthinking is an innate trait, like eye color or crooked toes, meaning that it can’t be changed and you simply have to live with it.

Adrian Wells, the clinical psychologist at the University of Manchester who founded meta cognitive therapy, discovered that overthinking – that is, worrying and rumination – is a learned strategy that we choose, consciously or unconsciously, as a way to try to deal with our difficult thoughts and feelings. It’s not a fixed trait, but a habit that we fall into, and we can learn to change it if we want.

In my first 10 years practicing as a clinical psychologist, I worked in traditional cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT teaches us that we need to spend time on our thoughts and beliefs in order to challenge them and transform them into more realistic or compassionate versions. When I was introduced to meta cognitive therapy, in which the focus is on simply letting go of your thoughts (Wells jokingly calls it ‘lazy therapy’), it radically changed my understanding of mental illnesses.

In 2020, together with Wells and other colleagues, we published the results of a large randomized trial involving 174 clients with depression. We found that those who participated in meta cognitive therapy benefited more than others allocated to receive CBT (74 per cent met the formal criteria for recovery at post-treatment, versus 52 per cent of those in the CBT group, and this was largely maintained at follow-up).

Together with my own client work and the experiences of other therapists using metacognitive therapy, this finding has convinced me that the cause of mental illnesses isn’t our negative thoughts per se, and therefore the solution is not to spend yet more time on them. On the contrary, the cause of mental illnesses is too much time spent dwelling on our negative thoughts, and so the solution is to spend less time on them.

This realization created a tsunami of thoughts within my own mind. For years, through CBT, I have helped my clients spend more time on their negative thoughts, but what if there were better ways I could have helped them? True, many of my clients felt CBT had helped them (and it certainly is beneficial to many), but I no longer believe it’s the optimal approach. For the past 10 years I have completely changed my methods and I exclusively use meta cognitive therapy to help people think less and, in so doing, cope better with their mental health problems.

Whether you just worry a little more than you’d like to, or you suffer from an anxiety disorder or depression, metacognitive strategies can help you reduce the overthinking that contributes to your symptoms. Metacognitive therapy is about discovering that you can choose whether or not you engage in a thought regardless of its content or the feelings it gives rise to.

In the following section, I’ll take you through some of the steps I use in metacognitive therapy to help my clients reduce their overthinking and learn that overthinking isn’t something that happens to us – it’s within our control.

What to do

Get to know your trigger thoughts and let them be

It is estimated that the human brain produces thousands of separate thoughts, associations and memories every single day. Most of these thoughts are without significance; they come and go without us noticing. Some thoughts, however, attract our attention. In metacognitive therapy, these thoughts are referred to as ‘trigger thoughts’. If you pay them enough attention, these thoughts can trigger an explosion of bodily sensations and feelings, and a myriad of associations.

Some trigger thoughts can activate warmth and joy about an exciting upcoming project, meeting a friend, or a holiday you’re looking forward to. These kinds of trigger thoughts are, of course, unproblematic. Other trigger thoughts, however, might activate a long series of further thoughts that can develop into worries or ruminations.

Worries typically form around hypothetical scenarios and start with ‘What if…’ statements such as: ‘What if I make the wrong decision?’ ‘What if they won’t like me?’ ‘What if I get ill?’ and so on. Typical rumination, on the other hand, starts with thoughts about what, why and how: ‘What is wrong with me?’ ‘Why am I feeling this way?’ ‘How do I get better?’

You can compare these thoughts to trains at a busy railway station. There are departures all the time to a wide array of different destinations. Each train can represent a thought or a sequence of thoughts. For instance, a thought such as ‘What if they won’t like me?’ could arrive at the mental railway platform.

You could ‘catch’ the thought and you’ll likely soon notice several other thoughts join in: ‘I won’t be able to handle it if they dislike me.’ ‘Perhaps, then, I shouldn’t go.’ Or you could dismiss the thought, similar to letting the train pass by, and turn your attention back to whatever you were doing. When you don’t expend energy on a thought, you’ll find it will either stay on the platform for later or simply pass you by.

So, it’s not the trigger thought in and of itself that will overwhelm you and lead to a variety of unpleasant symptoms; nor is it the amount of trigger thoughts you have (everyone has them). The problems arise if you continuously jump on to each train – that is, if you begin to analyze the thought and engage in extensive worry or rumination – then it’s like you’re adding more and more carriages to the train, one after another; the train gets heavier and slower, and will eventually have trouble passing even the slightest hill. The same goes for your trigger thoughts: the more time you spend engaging in these thoughts, the slower and heavier you will feel.

Recognise what you can and can’t control

If you’re used to boarding most trains rather uncritically – that is, continuously engaging in trigger thoughts and starting to worry and ruminate for long periods of time – then, unfortunately, you’re well on your way to developing an unhealthy pattern. If you repeat this pattern over and over again, it might begin to feel as if it happens automatically. You might, understandably, come to believe that it’s outside your control.

It’s true, the trigger thoughts themselves are completely automatic – you don’t have any say as to what trains will arrive at your mental railway station. However, you do have a choice over which trains to board. You can choose whether or not to engage in a trigger thought. You can control whether you ‘answer’ the thought or follow it up with more questions.

In trying to understand this differently, instead of in terms of trains, you might picture your thoughts as someone calling you on the phone. Of course, you don’t decide whether the phone rings, who calls or when it rings. (Unfortunately, in this case it’s not the kind of phone you can just turn off!) But you do choose whether to answer the phone or just let it ring and turn your attention back to whatever you were doing.

The sound of the phone might be loud, annoying and attract your attention, but what happens if you just leave it be? Eventually it stops ringing. While thoughts and phones are, of course, different things, this metaphor carries a key message in metacognitive therapy: While trigger thoughts are beyond your control, you can control whether you engage with them.

Thoughts are, in principle, ephemeral, although you might not see them this way. Try asking yourself how many of the thoughts you had yesterday you can remember today. To be honest, out of the several thousand I had, I’m not sure I can recall even 10 thoughts. Why is that? Most of the thoughts we have come and go almost instantly because we don’t grant them any special attention but leave them and return to whatever we were doing. Even though you might not be aware of it, you’re already capable of choosing not to engage in a conversation with your thoughts, just as you can ignore the phone that keeps calling.

Postpone and reduce your worries and ruminations

Many chronic overthinkers struggle to change their belief that their thoughts can be brought under control, and perhaps you’re still not convinced. One way of challenging your belief further is to explore whether you’re able to postpone worries and ruminations. I recommend that my clients introduce a so-called ‘worry/rumination time’. It has to be a set time of the day, for instance 7.30pm to 8pm, where you allow yourself to worry and ruminate freely.

That way, when trigger thoughts or feelings occur during the day – for instance, you feel the need to evaluate your health or reflect upon what your friends think of you – try postponing these thoughts to your scheduled worry/rumination time (you might tell yourself: ‘I’ll deal with this later’). This set time is also useful for any planning or reassurance-seeking for which you feel the need. One note of caution: you might want to avoid scheduling your worry time within one or two hours of when you plan to go to bed, especially if you’re prone to insomnia or other sleep difficulties.

Introducing a set worry/rumination time serves several functions. First, it’s an experiment that challenges the belief that worries and ruminations are uncontrollable. When dedicating themselves to this experiment, most of my clients find that it is indeed possible to postpone worries or ruminations. While this might seem a hard goal, in fact it’s something you already do on a daily basis without realizing.

For instance, any time you notice an alarming newspaper headline on your way to work and start worrying, but then remember that you’re in a hurry and so turn your attention back to getting to work – that’s you controlling your thoughts. Or maybe you’re sitting in a café with a friend and you overhear a conversation at another table that triggers unpleasant memories, but instead of dwelling on them, you decide to redirect your attention back to the conversation with your friend.

Again, that’s you controlling your thoughts. In the same way, you can learn to consciously ignore your own internal trigger thoughts, thereby experiencing that you really do have a choice in whether you choose to engage in them or not.

A second function of setting worry/rumination time is that it’s a way of discovering that trigger thoughts are ephemeral and ever-changing. For instance, the thoughts that seemed highly relevant and important in the morning will often seem less important when you arrive at your worry/rumination time later in the day. You might even discover that you’re not able to recall some of the thoughts that triggered you.

All feelings, whether positive or negative, are usually ephemeral if we tolerate them and let them be. Of course, not all thoughts disappear forever when you postpone processing them – some thoughts might be about important issues that you really need to address. Regardless, as most of my clients find, it’s much more constructive to deal with these issues within a defined time of the day instead of endlessly problem-solving while you’re trying to go about your daily responsibilities.

Finally, while this might seem obvious, the worry/rumination time is a way of reducing and containing the amount of time you spend worrying and ruminating. As I explained earlier, it’s not the trigger thought in and of itself that causes unpleasant symptoms, nor is it the amount of trigger thoughts. It’s the time spent engaging in these thoughts, ruminating and worrying, that weighs us down. By allocating a set period of time for worry and rumination, you’re more likely to feel in control and prevent yourself becoming overwhelmed.

Avoid avoidance and train your attention

For people struggling under the burden of overthinking, it’s all too easy to develop a fear of one’s own trigger thoughts. After all, if you feel at their mercy, you might be tempted to avoid them occurring in the first place. Unfortunately, not only is this largely futile, it’s also counterproductive – avoidance of triggering situations will hamper your life and, moreover, to the extent that you’re at all successful in avoiding situations that prompt trigger thoughts, you won’t get the chance to practice letting go of these thoughts. After all, you can’t learn to ride a bike without a bike.

Inspired by the above, and if you feel ready, I recommend that you give yourself daily challenges that involve trigger thoughts, and that you practice instructing yourself to leave them alone until a designated worry-time. This will help you become more adept at leaving your trigger thoughts alone and to realize that you’re in control of your worries and ruminations. You won’t succeed every time but, just like learning to ride a bike, you need to get up again every time you fall and keep biking until you get the hang of it.

Some people struggle to develop this skill. In that case, in metacognitive therapy we use attention training to help clients realize that they can shift their attention regardless of inner inputs, such as trigger thoughts, and outer input, such as external stressors. I usually ask my clients to do the following 10-minute exercise. Maybe reading this will inspire you to try it out yourself:

  • Tune in to three or more environmental sounds, such as: traffic; birdsong; chatter from a nearby radio or TV; children playing; building work, or whatever. You need to find somewhere where these ambient sounds are going on. It’s helpful if some of the noises you select are nearer and louder, while others are further away and quieter.
  • Of the three or more sounds you’ve selected, practise tuning in to just one at a time for approximately 10 seconds each (you could use a digital timer to help you) and let the others fade into the background. After the 10 seconds is up, switch your focus to another of your chosen sounds.
  • After two minutes, repeat the exercise, but switching more quickly between the sounds – now focusing on each one for just two to four seconds each.
  • The aim of the exercise is to become familiar with, and adept at, shifting your attention. When you’re feeling more confident you could introduce a recording of a trigger thought into the exercise, and practise switching your attention away from and back to the sound of that thought.

Another exercise you could try that I use in my clinic is the windowpane exercise – this will further illustrate that your attention is under your control, independent of the existence of trigger thoughts in your head. I write one or two trigger thoughts in washable ink on a window (such as: ‘What if I fail my driving test?’ or ‘What if she finds me boring?’), then I ask my client to practise looking through the words to notice the scene beyond – the trees, the sky, the buildings, whatever the view is from the window.

Then I ask them to switch their attention back to the words again, now back to the details of the view. The purpose here is to familiarise clients with the sensation that we can control our attention. If you give it a try, you’ll find that, while the written thoughts remain in view, you can control whether you focus on them or whether you let them fade and enjoy the world outside instead. Please note, if you find this exercise at all difficult, I recommend that you wait and try it with a professional metacognitive clinician (see the ‘Learn More’ section to find out how)…..

By: Pia Callesen

Source: How to stop overthinking | Psyche Guides

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Blood Pressure

Why Comparing Feelings Isn’t Helpful

A woman with a sad expression looking out the window.

When you are coping with something difficult in your life, it isn’t uncommon for someone else to say “it could be worse.” You might even find yourself thinking, “Well, at least I don’t have it as bad as that person does.” Comparing your own pain and other emotions to others is common, but that doesn’t mean that it is always helpful.

Comparisons are often natural and can, in some instances, even be helpful. They can serve as a way to gauge our progress or determine what might be appropriate in a certain situation. In other cases, comparisons can stifle growth, prevent self-compassion, and even make it more difficult to empathize with other people.

Some ways that comparing feelings might be harmful are listed below.

People Experience Things Differently

Each individual has different resources and experiences that play a role in how they are affected by different emotions. Just as not all people feel joy in the same way, not everyone feels pain in the same way. There is not a hierarchy of emotion that says that one person’s feelings are better or worse, stronger or weaker than someone else’s.

For example, if you are going through an emotionally painful loss, you might be tempted to compare what you are feeling to someone else who has gone through something that seems objectively worse. It is important to remember that hurt is hurt. Comparing your pain to someone else who seems to be suffering more only serves to minimize what you are feeling.

Comparison Often Leads to Minimization

The focus of comparing your emotions is often to minimize either what you are feeling or what they are feeling. Some examples include:

  • You might think that you don’t have the right to be upset about something because someone else is going through something worse.
  • You might feel like you don’t have the right to feel lonely because you have more friends and family than another person does.

But someone else’s experiences do not negate your own. In such cases, comparing feelings is a way of minimizing your own experiences.

This is something that you might do to avoid feeling a negative emotion. Rather than face it, it is easier to dismiss it as being “not as bad as it could be.” It is a form of toxic positivity, in which people feel that they have to hide or reject any negative feelings in order to focus on a false sense of optimism.

It Keeps You From Facing Your Feelings

Even if someone else’s situation is objectively “worse” than yours, it doesn’t mean that you are not experiencing very real, very valid emotions. You are allowed to feel upset when someone hurts you or disappointed when something doesn’t work out the way that you wanted it to.

Yes, other people also have their own pain and disappointments to face, but those experiences don’t diminish or eclipse yours.

Negative feelings can increase stress when they aren’t dealt with properly.1 But even difficult emotions can be important sources of information. They can tell you that something needs to change and help motivate you to make positive changes in your life.

Everyone Deserves Help

Comparisons often lead people to think that they can just deal with problems on their own. Rather than reach out for help and support, people are often left feeling that their issues aren’t serious enough to warrant attention.

A person who is experiencing symptoms of depression, for example, might not seek out help because they think that they don’t have any “reason” to feel depressed, especially when they compare their life and experiences to other people who seem to have it worse. This means that they won’t seek out the help that they need, whether it is therapy, medication, or support.

In such cases, comparisons can lead to avoiding your problems rather than finding ways to address them. Even if you feel like your problems “aren’t that bad,” you still deserve support and help.

How to Respond Instead

The next time you are tempted to compare your feelings to someone else’s, take a step back. Will it be helpful? Or are you using it as a way to dismiss your emotions? Instead of comparing:

  • Allow yourself to sit with your emotions without judgment.
  • Give yourself permission to feel what you are feeling and remind yourself that your emotions are valid.
  • Lean on others but don’t feel the need to minimize your struggles or compare your problems to theirs.
  • Avoid judging other people’s emotions. Instead, focus on valuing the fact that they are willing to share what they are feeling with you.
  • Listen to what people are saying. Acknowledge what they are feeling. Simply saying that you can see how hard it must be and that you are there to listen can be a crucial way of offering validation and support.

Remember that when someone is in a vulnerable place, it is not the time to make judgments or comparisons. And that applies to your own emotions as well.

Dealing with those emotions, even when they are difficult, is what allows people the chance to learn, grow, and heal from their experiences. Sometimes sharing your emotions can help. Research also suggests that just talking about what you are feeling can help reduce the intensity of those emotions.2

When Comparison Might Be Helpful

The reality is that some degree of comparison is inevitable. People are simply wired to notice what other people are experiencing and then consider how it compares to their own situation. And in some cases, it can actually have a positive effect, including:

  • Comparisons may help you feel gratitude for your own life.
  • It may help you consider options and think about what you want.
  • It can lead to observational learning where you gain knowledge without actually having to go through that experience yourself.
  • It can help you see what you need to do in order to achieve what you want in life.
  • It may help you feel more compassion for others, which can help compel you to volunteer to help.

It is important to remember, however, that minimizing your pain is not a part of gratitude. You can be grateful for the good things in your life and still feel disappointed, sad, or upset.

A Word From Verywell

The next time you find yourself thinking “it could be worse,” think about what those types of thoughts are actually accomplishing. If it’s a way to minimize or deny your feelings, focus on your emotions without judging or shaming yourself for feeling such things.

And before you tell someone else that at least they don’t have it as bad as someone else, pause and remind yourself that such statements are rarely helpful. Instead, focus on being a supportive listener.

Kendra Cherry

 

 

Source: Why Comparing Feelings Isn’t Helpful

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Anxiety In Product Development

Last year I stumbled across an article about anxiety in men. It highlighted how it can surface in atypical symptoms such as anger. I learned to recognise and work on my own anxiety. It also lead me to recognise anxiety in others. Soon I realised this does not only affect other people but also organisations and processes. Let me introduce you to anxiety driven development.

We already have fear driven development

Fear and anxiety produce similar responses. Fear is based on a concrete threat. Whereas anxiety is fuzzier and more vague. Fear driven development is graspable which makes it easier to talk about it.

As an engineer it could look like this: You’re afraid of pushing your code because you could break the build. Or you shy away of touching a method because you fear shipping a bug.

If you are a product manager you might try to squeeze that extra feature into a release because you fear that you won’t be able to close a new customer otherwise.

Patterns of anxiety in product development

But anxiety runs deeper than this. Anxiety becomes more of an underlying current. Here are the most common anxiety driven development patterns I have observed,

Play not to lose

Your product is driven by the fear of losing. Losing market share, customers or ratings. You are driven to keep up with whatever the competition does. So you go out of your way to get every feature built that your competitors ship.

As a product manager you might push a feature request to the top of the backlog with every release announcements of your competitors. You can even call that agile because you’re adapting to change quickly, right? Unfortunately what you’re doing is destabilising your development flow and hinder the long term success of your product. You will always be at least one step behind, always trying to close the gap. This will choke all innovation because who has time to take additional risks when you’re barely keeping pace?

Play to win

Play to win instead. The treatment for this form of anxiety is to develop a strong unique selling proposition (USP). If you can differentiate yourself from your competition you will not be reeled into the fruitless thought pattern of playing not to lose. Do not try to differentiate yourself by price alone. This is a very weak USP, just waiting for the next competitor to undercut you, speeding up the race to the bottom. Also it creates almost no customer loyality.

All that glitters is not gold

If you’re anxious your business is falling behind but you can’t quite pinpoint why you will act in a continued state of emergency. You will chase quick wins. This might calm the the anxiety for a moment but it won’t last long. It’s possible to make a team stay late or rally the whole company behind you for an initiative. Once. But the more often you cry wolf the less likely it is you get the desired response. If your body is being continuously flooded with stress hormones it will render it incapable of responding to stressful situations adequately. The same goes for your organisation.

If you push your team every quarter to add a last minute feature for the opportunity of a featuring in a prominent partner store your team will anticipate this and instead already create buffers beforehand. The emergency response will create a fatigue which will appear in the form of demotivation, inflated estimates and non-commitment. All of this hurts the true output, fuelling your anxiety even more.

Steering the ship

To break out of such a vicious circle practice saying no. Take a step back and craft an inspiring, authentic vision. Let this vision influence an actionable strategy. You can then break your strategy down into a rolling wave plan with more details of the near future. This gives you clarity on the current work while not losing the bigger picture. Ultimately you will be less swayed to jump onto every potential quick win.

Permit A 38

Anxiety can make you feel out of control. What’s a natural response to this? You try everything to regain control. But that perceived control can in truth be an overly bureaucratic process which slows down your product development, once again feeding your anxiety.

How could that look like? You might be creating or working on tickets that resemble a full-blown requirements sheet, specified to the very last detail. At the same time every idea has to go through various stages of approval (until it’s rejected). This is extremely damaging for motivation.

Cutting the red tape

To get out of such anxiety driven behaviours you need trust. Trust your own market research and strategy. And most of all trust your team. Empower the team to be the experts to achieve the product’s vision and let them self organise.

Awareness is the first step

Anxiety is widespread and on the rise, not just during a pandemic. It would be naive to believe that this does not also affect your workplace. Anxiety driven product development is hard to crack because it sustains itself. Take a step back and reflect on what you’re doing to break out of this Catch-22. Once you recognise your destructive behaviours it is much easier to change them.

Other articles:

  1. What’s wrong with traditional product ownership – Part 1 of 3
  2. Good intentions make bad roadmaps
  3. 5 steps to craft a vision for an established team
  4. Crafting a lean roadmap

By: andre.schweighofer

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Philip VanDusen

The number of people afflicted with anxiety has been steadily growing in recent years. For solo entrepreneurs, freelancers, creative professionals and consultants who work for themselves the negative affects of anxiety can be particularly acute. Here are some effective methods for reducing these emotional and psychological strains that can help you feel happier, more fulfilled and successful in your work and your business. _______________________ This video is targeted to my channel’s audience of entrepreneurs, designers, creative professionals and anyone interested in brand strategy, business planning, design, trend, marketing and communications. Philip VanDusen is the owner of Verhaal Brand Design, a brand strategy and design agency. Philip is a highly accomplished creative executive and expert in brand strategy, graphic design, marketing and creative management. Philip gives design, branding, marketing, career and business advice to creative professionals, entrepreneurs and companies on how to build successful brands for themselves or for the clients they serve. ——————————— WEBSITE: http://www.philipvandusen.com​ JOIN THE BRAND•MUSE NEWSLETTER: http://www.philipvandusen.com/muse​ FREE MINI-EBOOK DOWNLOAD: “9 Design Elements Your Brand Absolutely, Positively Needs” http://www.philipvandusen.com/direct-…​ TWITTER: https://twitter.com/philipvandusen​ YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/c/PhilipVanDusen​ PINTEREST: https://www.pinterest.com/philipvandu…​ LIKE ME ON FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/Verhaal-Bran…​ GET TUBEBUDDY – THE BEST TOOL FOR YOUTUBERS: https://www.tubebuddy.com/philipvandusen​ RECOMMENDED BOOKS: “Change By Design”, Tim Brown http://amzn.to/2mTFDrz​ “Imagine: How Creativity Works”, Jonah Lehrer http://amzn.to/2mJpQe9​ “Free Agent Nation” by Daniel Pink http://amzn.to/2mWlbpR​ “Orbiting the Giant Hairball” by Gordon MacKenzie http://amzn.to/2noTnIL​ “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball: Find and Sustain Your Life’s Work” by Kevin Carroll http://amzn.to/2moisCu​ The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, Al Ries + Laura Ries http://amzn.to/2noZGwd​ “Change By Design”, by Tim Brown http://amzn.to/2uaXYjX​ “How To” by Michael Beirut http://amzn.to/2u9lnnh​ “The Brand Gap” by Marty Neumeier http://amzn.to/2CAbYZk​ “Good Design Is A Tough Job” by Kirsten Dietz, Jochen Rädeker http://amzn.to/2CAIH0r​ “The Art of Innovation” by Tom Kelley http://amzn.to/2wtAevL​ “The Edge: 50 Tips from Brands That Lead” by Allen Adamson http://amzn.to/2Ef6fse​ “Art + Design” by Rex Ray http://amzn.to/2yLMRRT​ “Expert Secrets” by Russel Brunson http://amzn.to/2zEDOBT​ “Shift Ahead” by Allen Adamson + Joel Steckel – http://amzn.to/2xLrEX4​ MY GEAR: Canon EOS 80D DLSR Camera: http://amzn.to/2nn4y4q​ Canon EOS 80D 18-55mm kit lens: http://amzn.to/2mnAAws​ Canon EOS 80D Yongnuo 35mm lens: http://amzn.to/2nniETh​ RODE NT2000 Condenser Mic: http://amzn.to/2mFoNvG​ Shure SM58 Dynamic Mic https://amzn.to/2B4CQkT​ ART Tube MP: Tube Mic PreAmp: http://amzn.to/2mFoVeE​ Rode Mic Boom: http://amzn.to/2nxNFmJ​ Sony MDR 7506 Headphones: http://amzn.to/2mFpsxa​ Screenflow 6.2: video editing software: http://amzn.to/2nxFLK3​ Neewer 2 Packs Dimmable Bi-color 480 LED Video Light http://amzn.to/2Cz8INK​ Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920: http://amzn.to/2nmX4hZ​ Rode smartLav+ Lavalier Microphone: http://amzn.to/2n2xL7B​ HP 27er 27-in IPS LED Backlit Monitor http://amzn.to/2w29u1S​ Anker 2.4G Wireless Vertical Ergonomic Optical Mouse http://amzn.to/2iZHKts​ TubeBuddy: https://www.tubebuddy.com/philipvandusen​ Adobe Creative Suite (2019 CC)

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Scientists Show What Loneliness Looks Like In The Brain

This holiday season will be a lonely one for many people as social distancing due to COVID-19 continues, and it is important to understand how isolation affects our health. A new study shows a sort of signature in the brains of lonely people that make them distinct in fundamental ways, based on variations in the volume of different brain regions as well as based on how those regions communicate with one another across brain networks.

A team of researchers examined the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data, genetics and psychological self-assessments of approximately 40,000 middle-aged and older adults who volunteered to have their information included in the UK Biobank: an open-access database available to health scientists around the world. They then compared the MRI data of participants who reported often feeling lonely with those who did not.

The researchers found several differences in the brains of lonely people. These brain manifestations were centered on what is called the default network: a set of brain regions involved in inner thoughts such as reminiscing, future planning, imagining and thinking about others.

Researchers found the default networks of lonely people were more strongly wired together and surprisingly, their grey matter volume in regions of the default network was greater. Loneliness also correlated with differences in the fornix: a bundle of nerve fibers that carries signals from the hippocampus to the default network. In lonely people, the structure of this fibre tract was better preserved.

We use the default network when remembering the past, envisioning the future or thinking about a hypothetical present. The fact the structure and function of this network is positively associated with loneliness may be because lonely people are more likely to use imagination, memories of the past or hopes for the future to overcome their social isolation.

“In the absence of desired social experiences, lonely individuals may be biased towards internally-directed thoughts such as reminiscing or imagining social experiences. We know these cognitive abilities are mediated by the default network brain regions,” says Nathan Spreng from The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) of McGill University, and the study’s lead author. “So this heightened focus on self-reflection, and possibly imagined social experiences, would naturally engage the memory-based functions of the default network.”

Loneliness is increasingly being recognized as a major health problem, and previous studies have shown older people who experience loneliness have a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Understanding how loneliness manifests itself in the brain could be key to preventing neurological disease and developing better treatments.

“We are just beginning to understand the impact of loneliness on the brain. Expanding our knowledge in this area will help us to better appreciate the urgency of reducing loneliness in today’s society,” says Danilo Bzdok, a researcher at The Neuro and the Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute, and the study’s senior author.

This study was published in the journal Nature Communications on Dec. 15, 2020. It was partially funded by a grant to Spreng and Bzdok from the U.S. National Institute on Aging.


Story Source:

Materials provided by McGill University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. R. Nathan Spreng, Emile Dimas, Laetitia Mwilambwe-Tshilobo, Alain Dagher, Philipp Koellinger, Gideon Nave, Anthony Ong, Julius M. Kernbach, Thomas V. Wiecki, Tian Ge, Yue Li, Avram J. Holmes, B. T. Thomas Yeo, Gary R. Turner, Robin I. M. Dunbar, Danilo Bzdok. The default network of the human brain is associated with perceived social isolation. Nature Communications, 2020; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-20039-w

Cite This Page:

McGill University. “Scientists show what loneliness looks like in the brain: Neural ‘signature’ may reflect how we respond to feelings of social isolation.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 December 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201215082059.htm>.

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Trinity Growth

If you’re sick of feeling lonely and you want to know how to get rid of it, you’ve come to the right place! In this video, we will talk about the 7 steps you can take to overcome loneliness and to prevent it in the future. Check out the whole mini course here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list… – – – – – – – – – Join us on Patreon and get access to our Exclusive Newsfeed, our Naturalist Lifestyle Data Bank, more Mindful Moments, Coaching Sessions and much more. Patreon is a website that allows you to join our community and support our work directly. https://bit.ly/33939FC – – – – – – – – – Click the links below to check out our other videos about loneliness: Video #1: Why do we feel lonely? – Understanding Loneliness https://youtu.be/M74gIRMSMPI Video #3: 5 Traps Of Loneliness You Must Avoid! https://youtu.be/VoL_21lM4fQ Video #4: Guided Meditation To Connect To Your Powerful Source https://youtu.be/xjxtFCPV8EA Video #5: Guided Meditation For Loneliness – Feeling Connected https://youtu.be/poRk_yJSomI Video #6: How Loneliness Impacts Your Health https://youtu.be/z34RRUkTUFk – – – – – – – – – – Subscribe To Our Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw1e… WATCH NEXT: our YouTube Shorts: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list… Mindful Moments meditation playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list… How To Overcome Loneliness playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list…

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