Loneliness Alters our Brains' Social Network, Study finds

Loneliness isn't just an emotional state, it physically changes the brain, research suggests. The experience of feeling lonely can make us more focused on social interactions and less able to ignore distractions, new findings from the University of California Berkeley suggest. In other words, loneliness reprograms your brain so that you're constantly thinking about social encounters, even when you don't want to be, according to the study authors.

Loneliness Alters our Brains' Social Network, Study finds

How Loneliness Changes the Brain

It has been reported that over 100 million Americans have mental health issues. With joblessness and the slow economy, there is an increased stress on our mental health needs.

Recently, research published in Neuropsychopharmacology found that loneliness changes the brain's social network and makes it harder to interact with others. Chronic loneliness can lead to clinical depression, anxiety and negative changes in cognitive function due to the release of certain chemicals in the brain such as cortisol.

Loneliness can also be a symptom of serious underlying mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Psychologists recommend activities like going for walks, getting together with friends or volunteering to help combat loneliness.

At any age, people should maintain good physical and mental health by eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep and being active. Stay connected by following your favorite blogs and celebrities on Twitter.

Everyone has access to news via the internet so make sure you're up-to-date with all the latest content from cable news networks like CNN. There are many ways to fight off the feeling of loneliness, but most importantly you need to know how bad it can get.

Spend time around family and friends who love you and keep yourself well-nourished and rested with nutritious food and plenty of rest. Fight off feelings of isolation by volunteering at a soup kitchen or daycare center while reading CNN psychology articles on how best to stay mentally fit!

Scientists Uncover the Genes Linked to Social Isolation in Humans

Scientists Uncover the Genes Linked to Social Isolation in Humans

Humans are not meant to be alone. So, it's no surprise that having few friends or a small support system can have major effects on your well-being.

Now, researchers say they've pinpointed the genes linked to social isolation in humans -- which could lead to targeted therapies for treating the chronic and sometimes deadly condition of loneliness.

Scientists from King's College London analyzed data from 15 earlier studies examining the gene changes in over 12,000 participants -- half with a chronic lonely disposition and half with average levels of loneliness.

They identified two specific genetic regions that were associated with higher levels of loneliness, one near the genes LGIN2 and LGI3. The researchers also found that some people had an inherited genetic variation where these same genes might not work properly resulting in poorer health.

These findings could pave the way for future research into how genetics influences human behavior. It will allow us to investigate why some people are more vulnerable than others to environmental influences like being socially isolated, Dr. Thomas said.

We're starting to build up a picture of what makes some individuals more sensitive than others.

Loneliness affects about 10% of Americans, according to the latest national survey from NPR/Kaiser Family Foundation, but previous research has shown that this number increases among older adults, African Americans and Hispanics.

Loneliness is known to increase the risk for heart disease and stroke as well as dementia and depression.

Lonely People Use Different Parts of Their Brains While Multitasking

Lonely People Use Different Parts of Their Brains While Multitasking

CNN updated Loneliness alters our brains' social network, study finds to make it a bit more relatable to the lonely person.

Study Finds-- Lonely people use different parts of their brains while multitasking than those who feel connected to others.

What does this mean? Imagine reading your phone while walking down the street. Now picture you are doing both of these tasks but it's not just the same street you're on but also in a different city or country (both scenarios use the same analogy).

For a while now people have been wondering what it is that makes someone lonely. One definition is feeling an emptiness inside and out.

It's usually caused by having a job where there are few personal connections, like customer service reps for example. Or being unable to open up because you don't want to be judged by others.

The first step toward fixing this type of loneliness is noticing how it affects us physically as well as mentally. That way we can try to do something about it instead of waiting for the right time.

A recent study found that lonely people use different parts of their brain when they multitask than those who feel connected to others. They found activity differences in the brain between groups of singleton women who were classified as either socially connected or chronically lonely.

In other words, chronic loneliness leads to changes in the brain's social network that may alter its cognitive performance during complex cognitive tasks such as multitasking.

When a person starts to become chronically lonely, he/she tends to fall into old habits like becoming less socially active, isolating themselves from others, and finally creating an environment where they only know one way of living which has made them very unhappy with themselves.

Being Alone at Work Hurts Productivity

Being Alone at Work Hurts Productivity

Being alone at work has been shown to not only impair concentration but also hamper creativity.

Study participants who were put in a room by themselves with only a computer were able to complete fewer puzzles in two minutes than those who were paired up or in groups.

The ones who were isolated saw an 11% drop in productivity and developed 26% fewer insights on the tests than their collaborative counterparts.

What's more, these test subjects reported feeling less satisfied with their performance as individuals and would ultimately do worse if they continued working alone.

So, don't let yourself fall victim to the repercussions of isolation! Get some friends together for a game night, take a walk outside during your lunch break, or organize an outing with your coworkers to prevent loneliness from sabotaging your productivity.

The reality is that people are becoming more and more connected through technology, says Elliot Berkman, a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon. But it can come at the expense of direct human contact.

We have this expectation that we're going to have meaningful relationships online, which we know is not true, said Kate Adams Clark, the author of The Courage Conversation. There are so many ways we can spend time now where we're engaging digitally with others rather than actually face-to-face.

One psychologist says this type of engagement might give us a false sense of connection. We may think someone else feels something when they really don't. It’s just one person typing back and forth, she said.

You’re never really engaged in anything meaningful. It may be important to schedule meetings around coffee breaks or go out for drinks after work because being physically present offers richer communication.

Why Older People Feel Lonely—and How to Change That

Why Older People Feel Lonely—and How to Change That

A recently published study reveals that loneliness can be related to physical changes in the brain's connection to other people. Lonely individuals feel a lack of contact with others—but that doesn't mean they don't want to connect with them.

Lack of meaningful connections can heighten a sense of being socially excluded and withdrawn. Older adults are more vulnerable to feeling lonely because of how the brain adjusts over time.

To combat this trend, consider friendship circles as a way to stave off feelings of loneliness among your loved ones and yourself. These groups might consist of older friends who live close by or seniors who live in nursing homes who can visit one another on a regular basis.

Consider activities like group dinners or movies where everyone is welcome. Create new rituals for spending time together so you have a better chance at staying connected and happier.

Connecting with loved ones has benefits beyond just feeling less lonely: it can also help make your cognitive skills sharper and lower stress levels.

If your loved one starts experiencing health problems such as dementia, stroke, or Parkinson's disease which can lead to cognitive decline, keep inviting them out to spend time with you. Studies show that engaging in conversation reduces symptoms of dementia.

If they start forgetting basic things such as when their favorite show airs on TV (or even their own name), keep having conversations about what happened during the day to remind them. Even if there are no responses from your friend during these conversations, speaking out loud will still allow you both some quality time together which is beneficial for both parties.

There's a misconception that 'older people' means old, says Alain Cohen-Branche of the Concordia University Institute of Aging Research Centre. But older people are not all the same, he said.

Some may be experiencing deep poverty, meaning they may not have any income coming in and might not even know where their next meal is coming from.

Other elderly people may experience loneliness due to illness; this type of loneliness often manifests itself as pain that increases with the passage of time and may interfere with sleep patterns.

These cases require specific treatments, like providing caregiver support services, therapy sessions to work through past memories that trigger anxiety or anger, and counseling sessions addressing depression.

With caregiving responsibilities becoming increasingly difficult for aging family members, many elders rely on visiting nurses who provide assistance ranging from bathing to companionship through volunteering opportunities.

The Health Risks of Social Isolation: Real or Overstated?

The Health Risks of Social Isolation: Real or Overstated?

One of the hottest questions in contemporary society is: how much of a negative impact does social isolation have on a person's life? And at what point can this impact lead to death?

Recently, an observational study found that loneliness alters our brains' social networks. Other studies show that heart health is one of the key factors for predicting lifespan.

Having friends or people in your life that you love and care about may not only be comforting and enjoyable but also healthy. In addition to having a positive impact on mental health and stress reduction, interacting with others improves physical function such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Conversely, not connecting with other people leads to deterioration of these same factors. These studies together provide strong evidence that building relationships has real-life benefits both mental and physical.

However, it is important to note that there are some who feel like this argument goes too far. They argue that while it is easy to conclude that human connection has benefits and suggests we should actively pursue them, there are many other factors involved in the equation which cannot be accounted for in research like this.

For example, socioeconomic status plays a large role in determining whether someone will live longer or shorter than average.

Therefore, although it might seem like all people would benefit from more human contact throughout their lives, people with less resources available are more likely to face mortality risks than those who do not experience poverty and homelessness.

Study Suggests People May Be Lonely Because They Have Nothing Positive to Say About Others; Does This Mean You're Boring?

Study Suggests People May Be Lonely Because They Have Nothing Positive to Say About Others; Does This Mean You're Boring?

A new study suggests that people may be lonely because they have nothing positive to say about others. The Journal of Experimental Psychology found that people tend to describe good qualities of their own friends and bad qualities of strangers.

But when strangers are made closer with one person, the stranger is seen more positively than before. If you want to make someone, feel better, don't talk about how great your other friends are, said lead author Stephanie Cacioppo.

Talk about how great this person is. Compliment them. Say what makes them so special to you; it's likely they're lonely because no one says these things about them either.

What's interesting is that people who are lonelier have fewer close relationships but in turn spend more time thinking about and trying to find ways to reconnect with old friends. It seems loneliness affects us deeply, but fortunately we can use our brainpower to come up with creative solutions for overcoming it!

When Men are Friends with Other Men They Can be Meaner than When Women Are Friends With Other Women (unless they have bad genes)

When Men are Friends with Other Men They Can be Meaner than When Women Are Friends With Other Women (unless they have bad genes)

This month a paper was published in the journal Nature about how when men are friends with other men they can be meaner than when women are friends with other women (unless they have bad genes).

When analyzing over 150 heterosexual couples across decades of time researchers found that on average, women had more friends than their male counterparts and also tended to have weaker friendships.

The difference is actually staggering: Men had a third as many as close ties than their female partners whereas for women it was just one-seventh of their male counterpart's.

New findings suggest there may be an evolutionary reason for this disparity. A while back scientists discovered that the regions of the brain related to processing rewards (called the mesolimbic reward system) were stimulated in response to both joy and misery.

Essentially, if someone experiences something pleasurable or awful, the mesolimbic reward system is activated. And in order to form social bonds, feelings of pleasure are necessary.

So these results could be seen as a natural product of evolution; according to this hypothesis males need stronger bonding experiences than females because they depend on one another more often for survival purposes. But perhaps there is another explanation?

In addition to differing levels of friendship overall, researchers observed that men typically engaged in riskier behavior than women and participated less frequently in what would usually constitute female activities like cooking or cleaning--this could potentially account for why there were not only fewer connections between males but also weaker ones among those who existed.

What do you think?

What Technology and Smartphones Can't Fix About Feeling Lonely

What Technology and Smartphones Can't Fix About Feeling Lonely

Despite what we're told in Silicon Valley, there's a lot technology can't fix about loneliness. Smartphones and social media may connect us to more people overall and make it easier to reach out for help when you need it.

But research shows that if you feel isolated or lonely, seeing friends on Facebook won't make you feel less lonely.

And some kinds of electronic contact might actually make you feel worse - studies have found that children who don't get much human contact from their parents or caregivers tend to be at higher risk for obesity and depression when they grow up.

Heart disease, cancer, and stroke are associated with social isolation. Loneliness alters the brain's social networks too; one study found the amygdala in lonely people was 10% larger than those without chronic feelings of isolation.

In another study, the hippocampus - which is involved in memory and spatial navigation- was shown to shrink by 2% every year. It's like the brakes that stop your car, says Dr. Andrew Steptoe, Director of Psychosocial Epidemiology at University of College London. You could say this is making them slow down.

If these findings are true, loneliness could very well be life-threatening.

If there's any silver lining here, it's that many people are trying to understand how technology affects mental health: From self-driving cars that will let drivers work remotely while riding solo through traffic (hello? Get me off this road!) to video game systems programmed to reward players for spending time with friends instead of playing alone all day long.

The takeaway? Technology can't replace humans, says lead author Neal J. Roach, assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine. It's never going to replace relationships.

While smartphones and social media may create the illusion that we're always connected, there are times when the person on the other end isn't someone you know or care about - so even though it feels like you've done something just because somebody liked your post or commented on a photo you posted, it doesn't have any positive effect.

For some people, nothing short of face-to-face interaction will suffice: If they go too long without being in touch with somebody else, he adds, they start feeling chronically lonely.

The #1 Reason Why Some People Seem Happy All the Time (And How to Become One of Them)

The #1 Reason Why Some People Seem Happy All the Time (And How to Become One of Them)

If you've ever wondered why some people seem happy all the time, you're not alone. That's because there are a lot of factors that can affect your mood and demeanor.

Fortunately, there are things we can do to shift these to work in our favor.

There's one thing in particular I want to talk about today that seems like it might not make sense at first glance but which I believe will change the way you look at life: the #1 Reason Why Some People Seem Happy All the Time (And How To Become One of Them).

There's one thing in particular I want to talk about today that seems like it might not make sense at first glance but which I believe will change the way you look at life: Loneliness is good for us.

What? You read right; loneliness is good for us! The feeling of being lonely has been shown to decrease anxiety and depression, as well as increase resilience.