For many of us, one of the main things we have missed most over the past year is being able to see our friends. With good reason. Laughter, singing, dancing, sharing a meal, the casual hug or stroke of an arm — all of these things, which are shared constantly between close friends, trigger the same mechanism in the brain: the endorphin system, part of the way the brain manages pain. Endorphins are, as their name implies, chemically similar to morphine and have similar, but non-addictive, effects. They lighten our mood, make us feel good — they give us a sense that all is well with the world.

Friendship and loneliness are two sides of the same social coin, and we lurch through life from



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