Loneliness and boredom might actually be making us more creative

A new study shows a link between loneliness and creativity

female character looking out the window, self-isolation and boredom, quarantine
(Image credit: Getty Images / nadia_bormotova)

We've all been challenged by the pandemic, often finding ourselves parked on the sofa flipping through what's coming to Netflix and missing our friends and family.  And while many of us have filled our time with home workouts or self care days,  it's been a lonely time for some. But, has that loneliness actually made us more creative?

A recent study in Nature Communications has found that, though human beings are "ultra-social animals" that thrive off of social interaction, there is a scientific link between loneliness and creativity.

The researchers have said the "default network" of the brain that involves memory and social cognition actually goes through changes linked to loneliness.

Loneliness is heavily connected to many health problems, and lonely people are more likely to suffer from mental health issues and illnesses like dementia, but the study found that loneliness might actually help the brain build structures in the parts that are tied to imagination.

Serious woman sitting on floor leaning against a wall at home

(Image credit: Getty)

Lonely people are more likely to have more activity in the part of the brain that is linked to reminiscing, planning for the future, and being creative. So if you’re one of the many people that tried their hand at baking, new hobbies, or thinking up elaborate plans for the end of the pandemic, you’re not the only one, and there is science behind it. 

Getting into the complicated stuff, the study says: ‘brain-behavior association would manifest as greater attention to one’s inner milieu, and a heightened focus on the self and self-reflective thoughts, which would naturally engage memory-based functions of the default network.” In layman's terms, you reflect inwardly when you’re not around others.

We spend a lot of time thinking about other people and wanting their attention and approval, but when you are isolated from this you are able to focus on yourself and your sense of self.

The study also says that “persons who face social disconnection are known to more frequently engage in random imagination of social interaction, nostalgic reminiscences, hypothetical conversations, and treating pets as if they were human agents.” If you’ve been talking to your pet more than normal over the last few months, now you know why!

Cropped image of young woman painting on paper at home

(Image credit: Getty)

When you're alone, you listen to your own inner voice and tap into your own intuition as a result of no outside information, so your brain starts to develop its own structures. Perhaps that’s why some of the most famous artists and creators of our time were known as reclusive—Vincent van Gogh, for example. 

The takeaway is that despite the negativity of boredom and loneliness, there is one good part, and that is creativity. Being creative doesn’t have to mean painting—it can be imagining future plans or writing, mediation or being one with nature. Whatever medium, use this alone time to tap into your most creative self. 

Naomi Jamieson
Lifestyle News Writer

Naomi is a Lifestyle News Writer with the Women's Lifestyle team, where she covers everything from entertainment to fashion and beauty, as well as TikTok trends for Woman&Home, after previously writing for My Imperfect Life and GoodTo. Interestingly though, Naomi actually has a background in design, having studied illustration at Plymouth University but lept into the media world in 2020, after always having a passion for writing and earned her Gold Standard diploma in Journalism with the NCTJ.

Before working for Future Publishing’s Lifestyle News team, she worked in the Ad production team. Here she wrote and designed adverts on all sorts of things, which then went into print magazines across all genres. Now, when she isn’t writing articles on celebs, fashion trends, or the newest shows on Netflix, you can find her drinking copious cups of coffee, drawing and probably online shopping.