It may be fair to say that hunger and thirst can provide useful prompts, as long as you belong to the remarkably privileged proportion of humanity for whom food and water isn’t a daily concern.
If you feel hungry, it’s generally a prompt to eat.
And when you feel thirsty, it’s probably already past time for a glass of water.
We take these physiological signs so much for granted that we don’t really think about them. And of course although it’s another story, such unconscious reactions sometimes mean we absent-mindedly reach for less-healthy food and drink.
What I’d like to talk about right now, though, is another human response altogether.
I’m thinking about loneliness.
When I feel good, I really don’t mind my own company. In fact I positively enjoy it.
But when I feel less chirpy, when the black dog won’t leave me alone, well these are the times that loneliness can kick in, leaving me feeling lost, alone and ignored.
Maybe you know the sensation?
When you’re hungry or thirsty, you know what to do.
It’s easy, isn’t it? Feed yourself. Drink.
But when you’re lonely, well it’s not always so obvious.
You’re lonely because you’re not interacting and socialising with others, and you’re not interacting and socialising with others because you’re lonely.
Nasty. No wonder they call it a vicious circle.
The trick, however, may be to deal with your lack of interest in being with others in the same way you’d gently persuade someone to eat after they’d lost their appetite.
I think you’d offer them small, tasty appetisers.
So when your mood is keeping you in your cave, remember the importance of feeding your soul: establish tiny connections with others.
A text message. An email. A phone call. A brief face-to-face exchange with a neighbour, or passerby.
Think of loneliness as a different kind of thirst, and solve it by sipping.