We live in a world where we now can be more connected to one another than ever before. Despite this though, many people still suffer because of social isolation. Furthermore, there are some people who choose to isolate themselves.
Social isolation and loneliness are obviously intricately connected. This can lead to people suffering from anxiety and other mental health issues.
However, is social isolation purely a bad thing or could there be times when it is a benefit? In the following post, we look at both the positive and negative effects social isolation has on intelligence and mental health.
Positive Effects of Social Isolation
The choice to isolate yourself from society can actually be a benefit, particularly in the following ways.
1. Increases and Expands Creative Thought
Solitude has a tendency to allow creative thoughts to bloom. Researchers suggest that show people are better able to conceive their best ideas alone. This is contrary to the popular belief of strength of numbers or brainstorming as a group. In fact, one of the greatest and most innovative minds of all time Nikola Tesla once said,
‘Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.’
As human beings, we are sensitive to others’ criticism. This is why we are better able to express ourselves and freely think, on our own. In addition, having no interruptions gives us the chance to think and reflect differently.
2. Improves Your Productivity and Clears Your Mind
For all their good intentions often, people can often be very distracting. By removing as many interruptions and distractions from days when you need to focus, you are better able to do what you need to do.
Even the smallest, seemingly insignificant interaction can throw you off course. Therefore, choosing to isolate yourself from time to time can improve your productivity greatly.
At the same time, the human brain needs a bit of balance. Although it is essential for specific parts of your brain and its activity to participate in social interactions, time alone is just as crucial.
When you have time alone, you are free from distractions. This prevents your brain from recharging. Isolation gives you the opportunity to think and focus clearly and clear your mind.
3. Promotes Introspection and Self-Awareness
Spending time on your own helps you focus on your inner world and be more aware of your thoughts and feelings. This promotes self-awareness and self-discovery – processes which allow you to know your real self and find your purpose in life.
When you are not surrounded by other people all the time, it means that you have fewer influences from the outer world. This can be a good thing in today’s society, which tends to promote the wrong values such as material possessions, unrealistic beauty standards and superficial joys.
Following the crowd will never make you genuinely happy and successful. To find your true path in life, you need to learn to listen to your inner self so that you can understand and accept the real you.
4. Helps You Understand Others Better
Interestingly, isolation from others can actually help make our relationships with others stronger in a number of ways.
Differentiation and linkage are connected and important ingredients for healthy relationships. Differentiation refers to being an individual and autonomous person. While linkage refers to being physically and emotionally close.
When you have a certain amount of independence from people, it actually keeps the relationship fresh. Additionally, spending time alone improves your appreciation of time spent with others, when you have it. Spending too much time with people can lead you to taking it for granted.
Time alone can also improve your understanding of others. People who are introverts are normally more self-aware and empathic. Self-awareness and empathy are also essential qualities for successful relationships.
Negative Effects of Social Isolation
On the other side of things, social isolation can also have a number of serious negative effects. This is especially true with regards to your mental health and includes:
5. May Lead to Loneliness
There needs to be a distinction made between spending time alone happily and ‘feeling’ lonely. While some people (for the most part, introverted ones) enjoy being on their own, others may find it completely devastating. On the other hand, you don’t have to be alone to feel lonely. As Carl Jung said,
“Loneliness doesn’t come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.”
In any case, loneliness is a perceived feeling of being unable to relate to others. A lack of a sense of belonging, if you like. Rather than having to do with the time spent, loneliness is more about how we feel when we are alone. Loneliness can also make you feel as if you are misunderstood, not liked or loved.
6. May Be the Reason of Mental and Physical Ailments
Studies show that social isolation can cause depression. It has been noted that a lonely brain is biochemically and structurally different. The longer you feel isolated and lonely, the more permanent these effects become. Which makes it harder, in general, to get the strength and energy to be happy.
Moreover, there are even studies that indicate that chronic loneliness can be a contributing factor to physical ailments, such as heart disease. Social isolation in an old age has been also associated with higher risks of dementia.
7. Makes You More Prone to Rumination and Self-Criticism
When you are alone with just your own thoughts for company too much, it can have negative effects. Constant social isolation makes you more prone to rumination and negative thoughts, especially if you suffer from anxiety or depression.
That little voice in your head doesn’t always tell you positive things. When spending much time on your own, you may find yourself thinking about negative things over and over and criticizing yourself. In isolation from others, rumination and self-criticism have more chance to thrive inside your mind.
You definitely need time on your own, there is no getting around that fact. However, too much time alone can cause serious problems not just for your mental health, but your physical health too.
You need to learn to differentiate between time spent alone that is healthy and time spent alone that is not. If you are being introspective, creative and productive, that would be the former. If, however, your time spent alone involves lonely feelings and self-criticism – this is the latter and should be avoided.
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