With the global pandemic happening in the world right now, many of us are thinking about how isolation can affect us and how it has affected us already given that so many of us have been living with a range of restrictions for the past two years now.
There’s a lot we can all learn from a situation like this however, which is why I thought I’d write about it a bit in addition to that which I am discussing in my classrooms and with clients.
The modern world is a noisy place.
We’re constantly bombarded with so much information and so many opinions that it can be
overwhelming just to keep up with the day’s events.
And in our efforts to avoid all the distractions and noise in life, we often find ourselves retreating into isolation instead of connecting with others (for a variety of reasons).
We all know of the range of restrictions most governments have placed on the public at various stages of the pandemic and what the reasons have been to impose them. Physical distancing, quarantines, laws on traveling – all these things affect us in a certain way.
If we take the first one, for example, we can understand a lot about how we as human beings feel…
We are (mostly) social creatures, who thrive in the company of others. Although people think that physical contact can be neglected if we are still allowed to talk to
each other, this pandemic shows that’s not necessarily the case.
The levels of anxiety and depression in response to the pandemic have risen greatly, and most psychologists believe that the lack of physical contact is one of the leading reasons.
Interestingly, people resort to self-isolation due to the fear of experiencing negative
consequences from this modern-day plague.
With the current state of the world, research about the effects of isolation has been and continues to be booming. Campaigns and seminars regarding the subject have been launched in Denmark, Australia, and the UK, organised both by the countries and volunteers.
Their aim is to raise awareness of the issue and to give some ideas on how to cope with similar states. A different research group is focused on how loneliness can affect our physical health. Here are a couple of great resources on that topic:
Video: How To Combat Loneliness, Reduce Isolation and Feel More Engaged.
Article: How to feel less isolated and more engaged.
Thanks to many organised, professional studies, we now know that this feeling may even be
more dangerous than obesity and similar conditions. Self-isolation is also connected with higher risks of depression and dementia and can be detrimental to the development of children and teenagers.
Loneliness can be a significant health risk-some doctors even compare it to smoking 15
cigarettes a day. Our immune system is also affected by how lonely we feel – we tend to have weaker antiviral responses and higher inflammation. Our cognitive skills are also impaired – we find it harder to focus, string thoughts together, and articulate our ideas.
When given different sorts of tests, most of us start struggling even with questions that seemed easy to us before.
Yes, it’s true – In many cases, we will decide to isolate ourselves because, well, it feels right.
Even though self-isolation is accompanied by feelings of loneliness, it can be somewhat soothing. When it comes to the full manifestation of the side-effects of isolation however, there is very little worse than imposed isolation.
It’s no wonder that high confinement is a punishment in prisons. We use human contact not only to know more about the world and feel different emotions but to affirm our own sense of self. Many psychologists believe that inmates in super-maximum security conditions don’t lash out because they’re angry. They just need some sort of a reminder that they’re still human and violence is one surefire way to incite a reaction from the guards.
This is why imposed isolation is so scary – it removes your sense of identity and connection to the real world.
Here we can talk about the notorious Stanford prison experiment.
It took place in the university itself in 1971, and its goal was to show the effects such an
environment has on young people. The participants were students divided into either guards or prisoners, and the expected time for the project was two weeks. However, the experiment was forcefully stopped after six days due to the increasing brutality of the “guards” and the concerns of the parents.
A different research approach was designed to take away senses completely. In it, some paid volunteers (mainly college students) were put in sound-proof cubicles with no human interaction and limited sensory stimulants. They were given cotton gloves to reduce the sensation of touch, U-shaped pillows to reduce sound, and translucent visors to reduce vision. After just a few hours, the volunteers started feeling restless and then began to hallucinate. This experiment was also shorter than expected in order not to have any permanent damage on the participants.
Although this was not imposed isolation, a choice, the discoveries this trip led to are fascinating. In 1961 a geologist who was exploring an underground glacier in the Alps decided to stay there for two months. Because of the darkness and lack of time-measuring tools, his perception of time slowed down a lot. When he got out, it took him 5 minutes to count to what he thought was 120 seconds.
A different story about darkness and isolation shows that we also change our sleep cycles when under extreme conditions. In 1993 a sociologist spent 366 days in an underground cavern (he thought that it was merely 219 days), and his sleep cycle drastically shifted.
He spent most of the time being awake for 36 hours and sleeping for 12.
For us, as people, our surrounding environment has an immense influence. There is definitely a lot we can learn about ourselves through the different situations we
experience, and isolation is no different. Although it sounds like a negative thing at first, it is a source of knowledge for everyone, which is always good.
Now lets explore how to change your perspective regarding isolation into a more positive one…
Granted, just the word “isolation” itself brings a certain gloomy feeling with it for many
people. This is why so many of us are searching for ways to reshape our perspective on the subject. If you look back, five years ago, no one would have found this an interesting topic, but now it’s one of the most searched things in Google.
This is a great idea for a range of people and situations. Hobbies are our way of escaping the reality around us, and they’re a never-ending source of inspiration.
You can focus on some of the ones you already have and improve massively with time.
This way, isolation can be useful for you – it will have given you time to become a master of
something you truly love.
The other way to enjoy hobbies is to find new ones.
There are surely countless activities you’ve wanted to try out but haven’t had the time to. This is your chance to shine! Try some sort of art or craft or if that’s not your cup of tea – learn about something you’re interested in or find a new favourite book.
You see, hobbies are sort of mini-universes – you can get lost in them pretty quickly and
constantly have more and more things to explore.
Keep In Touch With Your Friends And Family:
Modern technology allows us to be close to each other even if we’re miles away.
We should take advantage of the miraculous time we’re living in and connect with our close
friends and family.
By doing this, we can remind ourselves we aren’t truly alone, making our days much happier. The world can be a pretty friendly place if we reach out and if we strive to keep our relationships alive. Keep in mind that isolation is hard for everyone, so you are definitely helping the people you love the most by just being a good friend! And that is objectively one of the best things you can do.
Stay Healthy And Relax:
Your body will thank you for taking good care of it. Your mental state is linked to your physical one, so if you put in the work for one, the other will benefit as well.
We know it can sometimes be hard to find the motivation to stay healthy in a situation like this, but small steps matter immensely.
Do some exercise, meditate, try to eat and sleep healthily – these things will positively affect
your mental health, which is crucial if you start feeling lonely. They build a solid foundation to build upon. Doing all of that, don’t forget to relax, because none of this should be seen as a chore or somesort of negative activity. It is simply your way of taking care of yourself.
Isolation is tricky.
We all know that it’s not always easy to be alone.
Today, more than ever, we can see why it’s so important to try our best to cope with a situation like the one we are currently facing and have had to experience at times throughout recent years.
It’s incredibly important to remind ourselves that there are some good sides to everything and focus on them where possible.
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Likewise, if you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar. Alternatively, go grab a copy of my Science of self-hypnosis book.