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United in Isolation

By Yodhananta Soewandi


As humans are social creatures, we primarily depend on social interaction in many forms (verbal, emotional and physical) to maintain healthy connections in the brain (synapses, spines and dendrites) which will allow the proper functioning of the entire body. This lack of interaction can then be a stressor leading to excessive levels of the hormone cortisol which can lead to many biological impairments from high blood sugar to a weakened immune response; but the key concern here is developing anxiety, depression and headaches. This state of loneliness if not addressed can have a life-changing impact on the brain. A study about the effects of imprisonment and solitary confinement on inmates done by a group of Neuroscientists in the United States have come to a conclusion that isolation can be damaging to the brain and ultimately bodily function. Neurobiologist Richard Smeyne of Thomas Jefferson University point to the possibility of nerve cell (neuron) shrinkage and reduction in key proteins and biological matter in the brain which is further supported by neurobiologist Huda Akil of the University of Michigan which explains that isolation can change the basic architecture of the brain. Loneliness like any other emotion can be mitigated through the processing of it which can be achieved through meditation, where such negative emotions are released from our consciousness so it can no longer be a trigger or stressor, as supported by a study of the Harvard Gazette in 2015, showing thickening of the cerebral cortex (part of the brain responsible for attention and emotional integration) during meditation allows the individual to rewire their brains to essentially remove negative emotions. In this upcoming meditation, not only do we address any feelings of loneliness but also build feelings of togetherness using the power of heart and brain by tapping into the emotional sensations and reprogramming our mind’s focus to the collective experience of this pandemic, reminding us all how we are not alone in this experience.

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