MindBrain Doctor Explains 5 Fast Steps to Manage (and Overcome) Your Lonelines

Brain Doctor Explains 5 Fast Steps to Manage (and Overcome) Your Lonelines

Despite the health and safety benefits of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are suffering from the pain of extreme loneliness after months of isolation in their homes. 

Joel Salinas, MD, MBA, MSc, is a New York-based, Harvard-trained physician and researcher with mirror-touch synesthesia, a complex neurological trait that causes him to constantly perceive each of his senses as a mix with one or more of his other senses. His synesthesia manifests uniquely in a mirrored-touch, where he physically feels what the people around him are feeling. 

 

Here he breaks down how to easily spot, measure, manage, and ultimately overcome loneliness to protect the mental health of you and your loved ones:

Understand your loneliness. 

You first need to understand – as precisely as possible – what you’re feeling and why. In order to understand your loneliness, you need a “loneliness equation” that is easy to use and understand. By understanding your loneliness equation and the three dimensions of loneliness—Intimate, Relational, and Collective you can figure out which type of loneliness you’re feeling and when.

Measure your loneliness. 

Use the loneliness score to put a number to the feeling and (for at least a month) track it every day just like you would check the temperature outside. Over time, you’ll be able to reflect on any overall patterns of your loneliness—like how understanding daily temperature also helps you understand seasonal climate and vice versa.

Embrace the feeling. 

To tame and overcome the feeling of loneliness, you will need to take on the sometimes-challenging feat of accepting the difficulties and the pain of the loneliness you’re experiencing. Through specific strategies based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), this step invites you to accept the reality of the circumstances (“the given”) and work with what you can. 

Start with a single strategy. 

There are many practical actions you can take to help alleviate feelings of loneliness. Some of these may even be the same unsolicited suggestions made by friends and family you’ve heard over the years that always seems to fall flat. But a lot of action without a clear focus, especially if it’s very demanding, can quickly lead to burnout and leave you right back to where you started, or worse. Instead, Dr. Salinas offers a short menu of practical strategies grounded in neuroscience, psychology, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). And your job is to start by choosing only one strategy—one that is easy and interesting enough to you that you will definitely do it.

Iterate and figure out what works for you. 

After trying out a single strategy or focus, use your loneliness score to help you identify what is most and least helpful for you. From there, tailor your approach to focus on the things that decrease your levels of loneliness most effectively and, for the long term, most sustainably. 

About  Dr.Joel Salinas

Joel Salinas, MD, MBA, MSc is a Harvard-trained sensory neurologist, human connection researcher, and speaker. At 22, he had a tumor on the right top side of his brain removed, and after being studied by experts, found that he had developed an extreme form of synesthesia since childhood. Synesthesia is a complex neurological trait that causes him to constantly perceive each of his senses as a mix with one or more of his other senses. His synesthesia manifests uniquely in a mirrored-touch, where he physically feels what the people around him are feeling. He details his experience with synesthesia in Mirror Touch: A Memoir of Synthesia and the Secret Life of the Brain (HarperOne, April 18, 2017), an investigation into the power of the brain and how to better understand it and its mysteries in order to live more fully. For more, please visit his  Twitter | FB | Instagram.

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