Only The Lonely

With the US Independence Day holiday well under way and with the sun shining down on us all, it is a good moment to take time out from the celebrations and contemplate our continental solidarity. At these times we feel a connection with our fellows as we dig into our barbecue, or sit back and watch the fireworks. The warmth is both interpersonal and physical as we stand in the yard, slathered in sunscreen, downwind from the smoke, chatting with our friends and neighbors.

It is interesting to note that feeling warm decreases any feelings of loneliness according to Bargh and Shalev in the most recent issue of the journal Emotion (1), they describe how physical warmth can enhance the feeling of social warmth, but the inverse is also true. Shivering in your apartment over the winter holidays will take your feelings of being lonely and abandoned to great heights.

The authors of the study record that those people with a marked feeling of chronic loneliness had a greater tendency to take lots of hot baths or showers. Their participating subjects were scored on their feelings of loneliness, cooled off extensively and re-scored. Their loneliness had increased after they had been left clutching large cold packs for a while.

After being asked to think back to their big rejection experience in their life and rate how they felt thinking about that, they were allowed to cuddle a warm pack for a bit. They felt comforted. Their feelings of loneliness caused by the rejection subsided. Hugging your dog will likewise help you come to terms with your feelings after being dumped.

In their final study, they showed that people did not associate taking lots of warm baths with loneliness. Of course being all scrubbed and smelling nice will make you a welcome guest at the barbecue. If you’ve been working hard and haven’t bathed for a week so that you overpower the smell of cooking from the grill, you may end up in the corner with an acute attack of loneliness.

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