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  • Writer's pictureNishtha Pahuja

Loneliness Behind Windows

Mental health and well-being is as important as physical well-being. This lockdown has wreaked havoc on many people’s mental health. Here, I’m going to try to explain why mood disorders, though very common for ages, have increased significantly during the past 50 years or so.

First, I’m going to write about mental health and loneliness in general, without taking 2020 into consideration. I’ll try not to make it too sad or boring, but feel free to tell me in the comments if it is uninteresting.

Over the last few decades, a large number of people have started living away from their families. It is due to a desire to be independent and free. But here’s the catch- humans aren’t designed to stat alone. Why not? To understand this, let’s go back about 30,000 years.

Yes, this is from the time when humans lived in caves and hunted animals for a living. We do not think about that time of human history. But here’s the catch- that time was pretty long- about 2.5 million years. In contrast-the first few ancient civilizations like the Harappan civilization were about 12,000 years ago. So I can safely say that humans survived the forests for a long, long time. Since we survived such long periods of time (remember without houses or cities), it implies that we had some sort of an advantage over other animals that helped humans survive. (Think about it from an evolutionary point of view and read the last sentence again.) It is not talons or tails (to hang from trees) for sure. Nor is it very high running speeds (well, not faster than a lion or cheetah of course). Some experts believe that this advantage is due to high intelligence. Another one which is important and I’d like to focus upon over here is teamwork.

Humans, like several other mammals (dolphins, wolves etc) lived and hunted in groups. This made it easier to hunt for prey and escape predators which is an obvious survival advantage. In fact this is the reason why humans are said to be social animals. When we don’t feel a deep connection with us, we feel lonely. This frequently causes anxiety. This is a response our body has developed during the course of evolution. This need for someone (we trust) was the reason the prehistoric man returned to his group for survival.

However, natural evolution is not as fast as the change in surrounding. The past few decades (or rather centuries) were a period of intense industrialization and urbanization. And though cities have high population densities, the closed and competitive environment is not something humans are wired for. Society has progressed so much, and many of us want to live alone and be independent. But not having friends and deep connections can make us feel lonely. I hope this article made sense to help you understand why it happens.

Now, we have another reason to be alone…the covid lockdown. A word “social distancing” was very commonly used. But there was a major problem with this phrase. Though it is important for us to stay physically distant, we need to come together as a community. The pandemic has driven many into anxiety, especially after social life was cut off and we can no longer meet our colleagues or classmates. Some people were more susceptible to mental health issues, like health care workers and paramedics who had witnessed so many people die (though it isn’t their fault of course) and were risking their lives and in some cases, those of their families as well. Many people were having mental health issues like depression, anxiety, OCD and PTSD beforehand which worsened during the lockdown. This made us find measures to come together to fight the pandemic in a united manner. We need to come closer as a community through we cannot be in physical proximity.

Major lockdowns may be lifted but coronavirus continues. Many people are still in their homes. Lockdowns are reimposed whenever the cases rise significantly. In these situations, it is important to be in touch with people and take care of your mental health. Talk to your friends and family regularly. And be supportive of those struggling with mental health issues. I had to add the last line because there is a lot of stigma in our society which is the reason many people don’t reach out for help, even in these abnormal times. We need to be supportive and stand by each other as a global community.

Here are a few thought-provoking videos that inspired me to write this blog.

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