Photo: Ben Goldstein/Studio D
For anyone plagued by feeling lonely—even among friends or within the context of an intimate relationship—it may be reassuring to learn that there is nothing wrong with you. According to Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, by John Cacioppo, PhD, a professor in the psychology department at the University of Chicago, and science editor William Patrick, thanks to genetics and early family dynamics we all differ in the degree to which we long for social connection, just as we do in our need for sleep. (Translation: The husband happily planted in front of the TV not paying attention to you may, in fact, simply have a lower set-point for human interaction—try leaving the room, and he'd miss you.) Although the book is written for a science-savvy audience, it also has practical advice for spending fewer nights at home communing with Ben and Jerry. The authors suggest, for example, easing out of isolation by making small talk with a shopkeeper versus rushing to join an online dating service. They also advise stoking warm emotions when talking to a prospective friend, or one you already have, by sharing highlights (rather than miseries) of your day; simple compliments work, too. Finally, give friends the benefit of the doubt when their actions don't live up to your expectations—we're all just stumbling around in our attempts to connect with one another, and most people believe they are putting their best effort into the endeavor.
*Also noteworthy this month: The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life, by Philip Zimbardo, PhD, and John Boyd, PhD, makes the intriguing case that each of us has a unique time personality. Some people tend to live hedonistically in the moment; others are fixated on past sorrows or future agendas. The book contains a quiz to determine your own time zone and suggestions for exploring its benefits and pitfalls—the goal being to help you make the most of the time you have.