Doing things on your own can be pleasurable, too.

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Social connections are clearly crucial for the vast majority of people. There's a huge pile of research demonstrating that social isolation has an immense negative impact on well-being. Social connections help buffer us against all sorts of negative experiences and make it easier to cope. They also provide value and meaning to us.

People with depression and anxiety (among other things), tend to have reduced social connections. Isolation contributes to, and results from, anxiety and depression. It's a vicious circle of feeling shitty and avoiding social contact.

But what about spending time alone for those who aren't badly depressed or anxious?

Being able to be content alone appears to be important to us, too. Strong discomfort with being alone can be a red flag.

This short piece on being alone reviews an interesting set of studies which demonstrate that many people are comfortable doing things on their own but choose not to. It's related to a fear of being judged (i.e., what a loser), and the prediction that doing things alone will be less enjoyable. Neither, it turns out, are true.

From the Atlantic:

The Unexpected Pleasure of Doing Things Alone
People avoid going out by themselves because they think they'll appear antisocial, but it turns out they'll end up having a lot more fun than they expected.
By Joe Pinsker
Two years ago, a Dutch creative agency opened a concept restaurant in Amsterdam that would be, in the words of its founder, “the perfect place to dine in pleasant solitude.” The restaurant is called Eenmaal—this name has been translated into English as “dinner for one”—and was launched in an attempt to start dissolving the stigma attached to going out alone. Apparently picking up on the same cultural drift, a new fast-casual restaurant in Washington, D.C., has tiered, bench-like seating with individual trays, an arrangement that caters to solo diners.
As antisocial as those ideas may sound, it’s surprising that the world hasn’t seen more of them. Today, more than a quarter of American households are home to just one person—a figure that has tripled since 1970. Also, the median age at which Americans get married has recently reached a record high. Given these demographic shifts, one would think that by now, going out to the movies or to dinner alone wouldn’t be the radical acts they still are.

Read the rest here: link.

Learning to be resilient.

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Life has a tendency to mess with the program, from bad hair days all the way through to extreme types of trauma.

A growing body of research shows that when confronted with adversity, how people think about the adversity, and themselves in relation to the adversity, can have a striking effect on their ability to cope and overcome. In other words, what makes us more or less resilient is how we think.

Not everybody is born resilient this way, but there’s now good evidence that resilience can be cultivated and learned. Sounds good, right?

From the New Yorker:

How People Learn to Become Resilient
By Maria Konnikova
Norman Garmezy, a developmental psychologist and clinician at the University of Minnesota, met thousands of children in his four decades of research. But one boy in particular stuck with him. He was nine years old, with an alcoholic mother and an absent father. Each day, he would arrive at school with the exact same sandwich: two slices of bread with nothing in between. At home, there was no other food available, and no one to make any. Even so, Garmezy would later recall, the boy wanted to make sure that “no one would feel pity for him and no one would know the ineptitude of his mother.” Each day, without fail, he would walk in with a smile on his face and a “bread sandwich” tucked into his bag.
The boy with the bread sandwich was part of a special group of children. He belonged to a cohort of kids—the first of many—whom Garmezy would go on to identify as succeeding, even excelling, despite incredibly difficult circumstances. These were the children who exhibited a trait Garmezy would later identify as “resilience.” (He is widely credited with being the first to study the concept in an experimental setting.) Over many years, Garmezy would visit schools across the country, focussing on those in economically depressed areas, and follow a standard protocol. He would set up meetings with the principal, along with a school social worker or nurse, and pose the same question: Were there any children whose backgrounds had initially raised red flags—kids who seemed likely to become problem kids—who had instead become, surprisingly, a source of pride? “What I was saying was, ‘Can you identify stressed children who are making it here in your school?’ “ Garmezy said, in a 1999 interview. “There would be a long pause after my inquiry before the answer came. If I had said, ‘Do you have kids in this school who seem to be troubled?,’ there wouldn’t have been a moment’s delay. But to be asked about children who were adaptive and good citizens in the school and making it even though they had come out of very disturbed backgrounds—that was a new sort of inquiry. That’s the way we began.”

Read the rest here: link.