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Health and Fitness Personal Growth Relationships Science Social

The Science of Loneliness and How to Win over it.

A few days back I was talking with one of my college friends over the phone. We were asking about each other’s life and how everything is going. He said ‘Everything is good but I am feeling lonely here most of the times’.

At first, I didn’t take it seriously. In fact, I told him ‘you are surrounded by so many people, your family, your new friends, and many others, how can you feel lonely. On the contrary, I should feel lonely because I don’t have my family, people whom I used to adore once are not with me.

His voice became numb. He said ‘I don’t know. After we left college, everything changed. As if I have entered into a new planet to live. I no longer had deeper conversations with anyone, I rarely laugh wholeheartedly like before. These days I feel empty from inside’.

My mood changed from a light conversation to a serious one. Anyway, I told him things will be better with time.

Honestly, I was shocked a little bit. I knew him in college. He was not one of those socially awkward or a bashful guy. He used to shout, laugh a lot, and enjoy conversations with others. How come such a guy can say ‘I feel empty from inside’. What changes in just 4-5 years.

People have asked me multiple times ‘don’t you feel lonely living far away from home?’

Their question is really valid. I know that feeling when you leave your village or hometown and come to a new city for whatever reason. I had been in multiple places (away from home) for study, so I had that feeling multiple times.

When you move to a new city, there are strangers everywhere you look around. There is no one to sit next to you and hear your story. Loneliness comes naturally in those times.

But it’s very normal on such occasions to feel a little lonely. With time everything becomes normal, we make new friends, we explore new places, food, people. Life becomes interesting again. This is a type of loneliness occurs due to external reasons and it’s very temporary (unless you don’t want to make friends or explore anything).

Loneliness is part of our biology, just like hunger. Hunger makes you feel attention to your physical needs, you need to eat to quench hunger. Similarly, loneliness makes you pay attention to your social needs.

And this is due to our evolution, in the earlier times when our ancestors were in jungles, our social needs were a great indicator of how likely we were to survive. Natural selection rewarded us for collaboration, for forming connections with each other.

Had we not formed connections with each other, we wouldn’t be alive today. Being together meant survival. This is precisely one of the reasons why humans are unique. We can form groups of large numbers. We can make meaningful connections with each other.

And today we are in the most connected time of history. People from different corners of the world can be friends today.

But alas, the data shows something else. More than 300 million people are suffering from depression all over the world, and most of the time depression arises from a feeling of loneliness. India is the leader of the list. Yes, India is the most depressed country in the world with every 1 among 6 people is depressed. Surprisingly people in the age group of 18-34 are most depressed.

The irony is-

“We are living in the most connected time of history

Yet, an unprecedented number of us feel lonely”

Wait, a few minutes back I said loneliness is the part of our biology and now I am saying loneliness has led to depression for a huge number of people.

Isn’t this sounds contradicting?

No, the type of loneliness I talked above appears due to external reasons like no one is there to sit near you during lunch or no one is there to play with you. This happens when you move to a new place as I said.

With time such loneliness disappears as we start making new friends, making connections with others.

But what about those occasions when you are surrounded by a huge number of people, your friends and yet you feel the ache of emptiness. This loneliness is the invention of the modern human race. And it is due to our internal dissatisfaction or our inability to be at ease with ourselves.

Psychologists define such loneliness as-

‘the psychological consequences of having a gap between the support and social interaction you’d like and what you are getting actually.’

Moreover, loneliness is a state of mind (just like happiness). If you are feeling lonely, you are lonely.

The most stereotype about loneliness is that ‘people who feel lonely don’t know how to talk to people or how to behave with others’. But you know this is not true. Scientific studies have also proved this. (Link to the study).

In fact, social skills make no difference when it comes to social connections. Studies have found that lonely people have superior social skills (Read here about it).

So it’s not like if your friend is more famous, beautiful, or have better social skills, she/he will not feel lonely.

The scary thing is, loneliness which arises due to our internal mismanagement is very lethal. It’s like smoking a packet of cigarettes every day, Surely, way more harmful than what you thought. I don’t want to talk in detail about that. You can just see the video below to get some idea-

If you read about the evolution of humankind from living in jungles to the agricultural revolution to the industrial revolution then finally to the digital revolution, it becomes clear why more and more people suffer from loneliness now-a-days.

Our biology is designed in such a way that it wants connection. That’s how our brain grew and became more and more fine-tuned to recognize what others thought and felt, and to form more sustainable social bonds.

Earlier human used to live together in groups, they used to take care of each other. There used to be joint families. Communities that existed before began to dissolve especially after the industrial revolution.

Today people leave their home in search of job, education, business, etc. So the number of connections with people we make today is far less today. Remember, not making strong social bonds is against our biology and in that way, we are more prone to fall in the trap of loneliness.

You might be thinking-

How can I save myself from loneliness?

Being in different places at different points of my life, I can tell you from my personal experience what has helped me to stay away from the vicious cycle of loneliness.

1. Accept your feeling

If you don’t know the problem, you can’t cure it. Yes, I felt lonely everytime I visited a new place. Everybody feels lonely at some point in their life. It’s a universal human experience. Accepting the feeling of loneliness will open the doors to cure it.

2. Write it down

I know it sounds silly but I told this before also (in my previous articles). You don’t have to be a fancy writer to write something. Whatever you feel lonely, just take a pen and paper and write about your feelings. Why you are feeling lonely? What are your views on it? What can you do to remove this?

You will be amazed by the kind of clarity you will achieve after doing this. Yes, not always it will cure your loneliness completely but for sure it will make you feel better.

3. Become self-aware

Maybe you are focusing too much on negative things or getting affected by your negative colleague. You can examine what your focus your attention on, and check if you are selectively focusing on negative things.

Do you make negative judgments about people even without meeting them ever?

Do you assume others don’t want you around?

If your outlook towards the world, towards your life, is negative, you are more prone to loneliness. Introspection is a great way to prevent loneliness.

4. Become interested in people

This was my problem in my teenage years. I used to think ‘I will only talk when somebody will show interest in me‘ until I read Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to win friends and influence people‘ book. Become interested in people is one of the greatest pieces of advice I ever got.

If you like someone, just go and ask him interesting questions about himself. I promise you will be amazed by the number of meaningful connections you will make.

5. Prioritize quality over quantity

I am sure you must have seen people who instead of having many friends, feel lonely most of the time. Yes, we should make connections with people but not necessarily with everyone. You won’t like many people and many people won’t like you. That’s normal.

I always believed, having 2 good friends is better rather than having 10 average friends.

You must make meaningful connections with people who will be beside you at the time of adversity. Otherwise, what’s the point of having friends. Make less but make better connections.

6. Have an explorer mindset

If you are curious about life, I bet you will rarely feel lonely. Actually you won’t have time to feel lonely. Just imagine, do you think Leonardo da Vinci or Benjamin Franklin felt depressed anytime? There is hardly any chance.

They were so curious, so busy doing different things that their minds always wonder about new ideas, new possibilities.

When you have an explorer mindset, you will find something interesting in nothing. Now, every time you go to a new place, you become curious about people, food, weather, the culture there.

7. Transform loneliness into solitude

This is the most important part of this entire article. You cannot always avoid loneliness (even if follow everything written above). Sometimes it is inevitable.

What happens when your loved one dies?

You will be in grief. Naturally, you want to isolate yourself from everyone.

What will you do in such a situation?

Remember, being alone and being lonely are two completely different things.

” Just like you can be sad even in the presence of crowd around you,

you can be blissfull even in the absence of crowd around you “

why do we like someone?

Because of various reasons. Maybe that person makes me laugh, he/she is cute, knowledgeable, has good social skills, etc.

In other way, I like someone due to blah, blah reasons. I feel good because of his something. We are dependent on someone else for feeling good. We try to extract something out of that person for feeling happy. We behave like beggars who always want something out of that person.

Naturally, when that person one day leaves or behave another way, our good feeling also vanishes. Because our good feeling was linked with some behavior of that person. Then we feel lonely, as if, someone has destroyed our world.

The day you realize that we are responsible for every emotion we are going through, be it joy, misery, ecstasy, or loneliness, you stop depending on others.

It’s not like we then no longer need connections with people. We will make connections with people but now we become a giver instead of a beggar. People want to make connection with you because now you are the source of joy.

Remember nobody wants to be with a miserable person, everyone wants joyful people in their life. Only when your own cup is full, you can share that with others. When you are ecstatic, you can share that with others.

“Become joy, don’t seek joy”

Jim Carrey once said-

Jim Carrey quote on loneliness

If you want to make your life meaningful, you must enjoy your own company. The great scientist, Nikola Tesla also said the same thing-

Nikola Tesla joyexcel

See loneliness is not that bad if you only know how to transform it into solitude. Loneliness is like giving full freedom to yourself. You can do whatever you want to do. Either you will become more creative or you will be scared, watching no one is around you. The only thing to think about is-

Do you know how to use that freedom for your good cause?

I am finishing this article with this quote-

joyexcel solitude quote

Have a meaningful week. Until next time.

Joy

Source:

  1. The Atlantic.com
  2. The Lonely Blog
  3. Vandrevala Foundation
  4. Cigna U.S. Loneliness index
  5. The Science of Loneliness
Categories
Personal Growth Science Uncategorized

The Road to being creative

I have a question for you. What’s the most important resource that humans have? Without it, nothing new could ever happen.

Think about it… It’s creativity. Think for a moment, it’s because of creativity humans have come so far from jungles. We have progressed so much over the decades. Without creativity, we would repeat the same pattern again and again. And nothing new can ever happen then.

Now a lot of questions are floating on the mind. What is actually Creativity?              Where does it come from? Is it something only for a few gifted people or anyone can learn to be creative?

Ok, let’s address them one by one. In layman language                                                                     ‘ We understand Creativity as the ability to generate new ideas, new connections between different ideas and applying those to solve problems in any field or realm of our lives’.

Creativity is the greatest asset humankind have. It’s never a one-track answer to explain where does it come from. People have various explanations but I believe creativity comes from our need to survive and constantly improve with evolution. It’s to cope up with life’s uncertainty and be in control. It’s due to creative thinking we have made our survival so easy.

There is no doubt we have to think more creatively to progress with time. However, the biggest question is what’re the criteria for being creative? Can anyone become creative or it’s just a few people on the earth?  

Think about your childhood, when you were a small kid. Were you creative?                         Of course, Children’s are always creative although we may not notice it every time. But then what happens as we grow older, as we become an adult. Most of us start believing, creativity is a gift to a few people. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.                                                 Do you also think the same way?

Let’s see what our scientific studies say us. How to be creative?

There are two schools of thoughts on this. According to one group of people

To contribute creatively in any field, one must have detailed knowledge and skillsets in that particular field. The time and skills required to become master in any field are too great for any individual to become an expert at more than one field in one lifetime.            According to them, People who are polymaths (previous post on Polymaths) or multitalented are rare and gifted. Creativity arises from an intense focus on any single domain. In fact, for them learning more than one area is a distraction for creativity. In short, these people believe in-

                                                 “Jack of all trades, master of none”

There is another group of people who think, creativity is not limited to any single domain but it’s the transfer of knowledge, skill, and experience from one field to another. According to them-     

                  “The more Creative a person is, the more varied their interests are”

Confused about who is right. Ok, let’s look back to the history of some of most creative people on the earth and how they were.

We all know Charlie Chaplin as a great actor and director but he was also a professional dancer, musician, and photographer.                                                                                  Bertrand Russel, a world-class mathematician also won a Noble prize in literature for his writings.                                                                                                                                                    Linus Pauling won two Noble prizes, one for chemistry and another in peace for his efforts to ban on atmospheric nuclear testing.                                                                    Hannes Alfven wrote a bestselling science fiction novel called ‘The Great Computer’- the prototype of Matrix movies more than a decade before he won a Noble Prize in Physics. 

There were many more people like that. Of course, how can we forget Leonardo Da Vinci.

  Looking at above examples one group of people will say ‘Oh, they are gifted people who excelled in more than one field’.

  However, there are a greater number of people who although are skilled at more than one field but not known to the world for all their skills. They have not developed all their skills to the professional level. 

Take, for example, Albert Einstein. The whole world knows him for his intellectual ability to define the universe in terms of Physics.  But very few people probably know about his passion for music. And no, music was just not a hobby to him as you might think. In one of his interview, he said-                                                                                               “ If I were not a physicist, I would be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I get most joy in life out of music.”    

 His son Hans Einstien once said-                                                                                                         “Whenever he (Einstien) had come to an end of the road or in a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music and that would usually resolve all his difficulties.”

Now you know music was not just a mere hobby to Einstien. He had pursued music throughout his life. Einstein even told once Shinichi Suzuki, the famous inventor of the Suzuki method for teaching music, that –                                                                                  “The theory of relativity occurred to me by intuition, and music is the driving force behind this intuition. My parents had me study the violin from the time I was six. My new discovery is the result of musical perception.”

He himself once told that he never thought in logical symbols or mathematical equations but in images, feelings and musical architecture that have no domain-specific identities. 

This reminds me of another great mathematician Srinivas Ramanujan who said-            “A mathematical equation means nothing to me unless it expresses a thought of God”

Nobel Laureates in science from van’t Hoff to Peter Debye to Roald Hoffman (and many more) again and again said that ‘ having interests in diverse domains (whether it’s painting, poetry, writing or anything) shaped their scientific thinking. In another way, scientific thinking has played an important role in the thinking of many Nobel Laureates in Literature

In fact, the great minds never differentiate among disciplines. As Einstien once said- 

                                            ‘ The greatest scientists are artists as well’

What the discussion about polymaths shows us is knowledge and skills in various fields provides us a great platform for being creative. It increases our chance to think something different and new. But opportunity, persistence, environment and other factors determine whether multiple skills will actually manifest and we can pursue that professionally also. Some individuals find the opportunity and environment in multiple fields to apply their diverse abilities. There are many examples as discussed above also where people have many skills but known to the world for a particular skill. Just like Einstien, Max-Planck and Heisenberg were also talented musicians (pianist). However, they are known to most of us as only great scientists. But they never left their music avocation as Max-Planck also believed-     

                                  ” The creative scientist needs artistic imagination”

The whole point all these discussions is what’s the better way of being creative (Yes, we all are creative).    Which school of thought you belong to? If I have to answer this

Focus and attention is, of course, necessary for creating something new but at the same time, sticking to just one idea or area very early in life may not be a good idea. It can work as detrimental to creativity as it will make you think only in one dimension. The best way would be to explore and learn from different domains (which interests you) and connecting to all those knowledge and skills together with intensive focus. This way chances of creating something new in any field would increase by many folds as all the great minds have shown us. 

What characterizes creative individuals is their ability to find connections among apparently unrelated domains of activity- artist in a scientist, scientist in an artist etc.        Polymathy is not only possible but necessary for being a creative individual.

 We all are born as a creative, let’s revive that creativity.

steve-jobs-creativity-quote

 

Have a creative week. Until next week                                                                                                                                                                  -Joy

 

 

Source:

  1. Multiple giftedness in adults
  2. Creativity Science

 

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Uncategorized

Why Being Polymath is the way to success

How many times in your life have you heard the line ‘ Focus on one area, give your everything to this and you will be successful’. I guess every one of us has heard this pretty common lines. There is a very famous line which says

                                  “Jack of all trades, master of none”

Which means you may be good at a few things but if you are not excellent or outstanding in one thing, your chances of being successful will reduce. Think about your own life, what are the skills you have? How many areas have you studied? Chances are that one, two or very few. We have grown up believing that we need to study one subject deeply and stick to that forever. 

However, if you see the lives of the most successful or I would say the most impactful people in the world they don’t fall in the ‘One area specialist’ category. Take anyone for example from Elon Musk, Steve jobs, Richard Feynman, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos to Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, A.P.J Abdul Kalam, Charles Darwin, Galileo and many more. If you look closely at the lives of these people you will find no one of them studied just one area. Wait, What’s going on here? If we all are being taught to specialize in just one area then why all of the successful personalities did not follow this. 

Something is wrong right!                                                                                                                   Even Scientific research today firmly believes that people who have wide interests are likely to have the creative impact. Have a look at this paper.

But what is the meaning of ‘Polymath‘? (you must have noticed in the headline)                   A ‘Polymath’ is someone who has knowledge of diverse fields and integrates them into one particular skill set. Many examples you will find in my previous posts from Johannes Gutenberg, Steve Jobs, Leonardo Da Vinci, modern entrepreneurs like Naveen Jain, Elon Musk etc. All of them had or have diverse interests and knowledge and they combined all the knowledge to produce something unique. There is a great story about Charles Darwin how he discovered ‘Theory of Evolution’. To solve the natures mystery he had to think like a biologist, geologists, naturalist all at once. He approached the problem from different angles. Take our beloved president A.P.J Abdul Kalam, how do you describe his specialization. Although an Aeronautical Engineer, you can see his life how diverse it was and the kind of knowledge he had about various fields.

So you want to be a Scientist. Study about Science of course but have time to read about history, business, literature or whatever interests you. Still pondering why to study all those. Remember what one of the greatest ‘Polymath’ Leonardo Da Vinci said

       c0438045065f670464e920fd3bd00c68

In fact in this modern era becoming a ‘Polymath’ is even more valuable and easy. Need justification. OK.                                                                                                                                      Things are changing most rapidly in this generation. What was precious yesterday becoming obsolete today. Now if you give all of your time and energy in just one particular skill set. What’s the guarantee that it will not become obsolete tomorrow? No guarantee right. You must know what’s trending now and what is the possible future. Imagine the scenario where someone is giving all his energy and time for becoming an excellent driver and tomorrow the driverless cars become famous. What will he do?        One must be aware of possible future like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Nanobot and many more. Having knowledge about more than one domain gives you access to know the broader and better picture of the world. It will make you much more valuable.

And it’s so easy to become a ‘Polymath’ today than ever before (if only you have interest). The world is connected all the time. You have access to almost all the knowledge humankind have acquired. There are many examples today where someone learns amazing stuff from home just by using the internet. There are Online learning platforms like Coursera, Udemy, edx which has courses about almost everything you want to learn. Masterclass, Khan Academy is another good platforms. Youtube is a great learning platform, which is completely free. Today a 13-year-old learning coding and developing best apps. 11-year-old learning about astronomy. Issac Newton said

                             “If I have seen further than others,                                                                                                                              it is by standing upon the shoulders of  giants”

Today we have more giants than ever.                 

So ask yourself an honest question ‘what are you willing to learn’? What interests you?      And what is stopping you from learning them? Is it the deep-rooted belief that we can’t be good at more than one things. You have got this one life, learn as much as you can.

Be grateful that you born in this era, your ancestors didn’t get this much chance to learn things so easily like today. 

robert_greene_mastery_the_future_belongs_to_those_who_learn_more_skills_and_combine_them
Robert Greene quote

Have a learning week. Until next time                                                                                                                                                                 -Joy

 

 

 

Source-                                                                                                                                                                  1. Michael Simmons on ‘People Who Have “Too Many Interests” Are More Likely                   To Be Successful According To Research’

 2. Hidden Talents