We need each other and to be connected: lessons from neuroscience

A guy with hand out holding an imaginary phone to be connected.

During this time of sheltering in place, it is still important to stay connected with others. Even Abraham Maslow with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pointed out that we need to feel a sense of belonging and love once we have met our basic needs and safety. This research is from the 1940’s. More recent research has indicated that feeling connected is even more important than he first thought. Being left out actually can cause us pain.

In this article by David Rock he elaborates on these concepts. It turns out the area of the brain where we experience physical pain is the same area that is impacted when we have social pain and feel disconnected. Being home and be quarantined actually has the same impact as physical pain.

 

Impacts of not connecting of others

 

Not connecting with others actually has a downside on our health. Having meaningful human contact is necessary for both your mental and physical health. It turns out from more recent studies on both animals and humans that being in solitary confinement and disconnected from others is very debilitating.

 

Development of social skills

 

From a very young age we are taught social skills. These evolve into emotional intelligence and conversation intelligence with others. It starts with family and expands to friends and neighbors. We learn about trust and develop techniques to avoid painful interactions too. We are used to daily routines and interactions with others. It is part of a healthy life and life style. When feeling isolated sheltering in place, it is still important to have daily and weekly routines. It also behooves you to have connections outside of your home environment. Think outside of the box.

Think of the elderly and those confined. They may feel like they are in solitary confinement. Reach out to them. Think of family, friends, neighbors, peers, subordinates and your boss. It is possible that many will go with limited or very limited interactions with others. You can make the difference. It feels good to you, and it feels good to those you make a point of interacting with.

 

Health issues

 

From the article above written by David Rock I offer the following.

It turns out that feeling lonely can reduce your immune function, increase inflammation in the body, and even increase your chances of dying. One study showed that those low on social connections had an increased mortality equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Then there’s this scary quirk of nature: When you feel lonely, you become better at fighting off bacterial infection, but worse at fighting off a virus, like the common cold, or the flu. (Or, yes, COVID-19.) So not only are we feeling lonely, but if we then catch this new virus, research suggests the loneliness could make our symptoms even worse.

 

Things you can do

 

Being with others we trust makes us more resilient. Keep your distance, but don’t be afraid to reach out to others. You have a phone. You have an internet connection. Put down the game controller. Reach out and virtually touch someone. Oxytocin is a natural byproduct of a nice hug with someone you love. Although you may not be able to hug, give a pat on the back or have a very welcoming handshake at this time, you can reach out. You may not receive the same dose of oxytocin, but you and they will feel better.

How about from work. See the specific commentary form the March 20th blog on “How do you strengthen ties with team members working from home?” Besides formal and scheduled sessions and interactions, think about an informal scheduled coffee break, call-in, or checkup. See how everyone is doing and be there for each other. How about a virtual happy hour? Some neighbors organized one of these after work last Friday and it was a hit. The alternatives are almost endless. You could have a session simply to talk about what you might want to do. The best ideas and the most accepting ideas are generally those proposed by team members.

 

This is an opportunity

 

Think about what you might be able to do now given your situation. Think about what is the good think about this? Seriously. What can you do now, concentrate on, or collaborate with someone else that you would not have had time for previously? Think about this at work, at home and in your life. This is a time to reprioritize what is really important to you and what matters.

Gather your team, your family, or your friends Friday after work or this weekend and have a check in get together. This is not only a nice thing to do it is a very healthy thing to do too. That is for you and also for them.

 

Six questions to ask yourself each day

 

Finally from the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley here are six questions to ask yourself every day. These are for your own mental health and to have a better day. Notice again the idea of connecting with others.

The questions

  1. “What am I grateful for today?
  2. Who am I checking in on or connecting with today?
  3. What expectations of “normal” am I letting go of today?
  4. How am I getting outside today?
  5. How am I moving my body today?
  6. What beauty am I either creating, cultivating, or inviting today?”

Take these to heart.

An expansion on the questions

It turns out with (1) above that taking five minutes a day at the start of the day to think about what you are grateful for produces very positive chemicals and hormones that stay with you nearly all day. You can do this when starting your day in the shower, brushing your teeth, shaving or putting on makeup.

(2) Checking in or connecting with someone every day is good for them and for you too. Think of texting with friends, neighbors, peers etc. Think about stopping by a neighbor’s place, standing six feet or more away and having a smiling friendly face to brighten up their day for a few minutes. This can make your day and theirs too.

(3) The faster we let go of normal the faster we adapt. Let it go and move on. Be flexible and adapt. We have a new normal now.

(4) Get outside every day. Breath the air. Listen to the birds. Note the sky. Check out the sunrise or the sunset. It will help you feel good to be alive. Observe nature around you. The world really is a great place. Take a few minutes to enjoy your surroundings.

(5) Move your body every day. If working from home sitting in a chair get up every two hours and move around. Consider doing some exercise. With exercise start slow, but do something. Go for a walk. Check out apps. Get an app that works for you.

(6) Be creative. Write something. Keep a journal. Draw something. Research something on the internet. Explore something new. Follow your passion. Sing. Cook. Volunteer. Do something that gives you a chance to be you. Be the change.

Connect with others. Connecting is healthy for your mind and your body. Consider these six questions as part of your day each day. Post them so that you can remember to ask yourself these questions. When you think about them and take some actions you will have a much better day. Have fun with this.

 

About the author

 

Mike is a former IRS executive that oversaw business valuation nationally, research credit for 23 states and who brought mediation to the IRS Field Specialists Program. He is a mediator/negotiator that helps clients resolve issues and be more productive as a conflict resolution expert. You may contact Mike directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 11 books including, The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]