Show Notes - Social Connection

Hello, my friends, Peggy Moore here with the Discover Your Personal Power Podcast. It is June 24th, 2020 and it has been a crazy year, am I right?  I don’t know about you guys, but I have really struggled with the quarantine situation.  Staying at home, not being able to gather with my friends.  It has been very isolating.  Chatting via zoom or google meets just hasn’t been enough.  And hugging - I miss hugging.  I am a hugger. I spent years trying to conform to the social norm of not hugging, but as I have learned to become more confident in my own space and authentic, I found I am a hugger.  

Did you know that hugs can boost the immune system?  They can help lower the risk of heart disease and they produce the happy chemical oxytocin, the connection, and bonding chemical in the brain.  Hugs are good for you. 

In fact, did you know that loneliness is linked to dramatic increases in the stress hormone cortisol, hardening of the arteries (which leads to high blood pressure), inflammation in the body, and can decrease executive functioning in the brain along with learning, and memory? According to a study done at Harvard, having no friends can be as deadly as smoking, it can increase levels of the blood-clotting protein which cause heart attacks and strokes 

According to a research article published in 2010, people who have healthy social relationships can live up to 50% longer than loners.  Social relationships are very important for both your physical and mental health. Friends are more effective than any treatment, therapy, or medication.

Back in the day, our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, they traveled in tribes and small bands and lived in groups in order to survive.  It is believed that group living actually preceded living as a pair of about 35 million years. One new study suggests that oxytocin's role in one-on-one bonding probably evolved from an existing, broader affinity for group living.

Human beings are social creatures. We need to maintain social connectivity to maintain physical health and live longer. 

 In the era of social media, where we are often only connected digitally, it is extremely important that each of us make a conscious effort to create and maintain close-knit human bonds and a strong sense of community. Yes, any social network will benefit your health to a degree. . . but, biologically we need face-to-face contact and intimate human connections to engage biological systems that have evolved for millennia to preserve our well-being.

 “The importance of connection. Humans want connection. It’s in our DNA. We are a tribal species. We want to be included with others. You can see it in everything we do. When we are very young until exactly where you are right now. We are seeking connection and what we believe connection will give us.

One of the most fundamental human needs is the need to belong.  In fact, Abraham Maslow identified it as one of the five basic needs.  We want to be part of a group and to feel loved and accepted by others.  That is, we want to be a member of a tribe.  A tribe-or a pack, clan, elected family, posse, crew, network, or true friends–is a group of people who share common interests and values and show genuine appreciation and care for each other.

 Your tribe members are those people who accept you just as you are, and who want the very best for you.  They make you feel understood, and they encourage you to go after your goals and pursue your dreams.  Your tribe members help you get through the difficult times.  They provide you with a sense of community and support.

Let’s talk about that Oxytocin for a minute, y'all know I love talking about the brain.  Oxytocin is a neurochemical in the brain.  Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone” because of its important role in forming and maintaining mother-child bonding.  The reason we give newborn babies and their mother's skin to skin time is because it increases the release of oxytocin in the brain and creates that strong bond.  Giving birth actually floods the brain with oxytocin as a protective factor to help mom and baby bond. 

Oxytocin also plays a huge role in a much broader range of social connections. Oxytocin is released through any type of social connectivity. In a chain reaction, oxytocin promotes the release of serotonin which results in feelings of happiness and comfort. 

Oxytocin specifically affects an individual’s willingness to accept social risk arising through interpersonal interactions. In a study from Stanford University Medicine, researchers found that our happiness circuit in our brain is a network of interconnected brain regions that create feelings of pleasure in response to activities such as finding food when we are hungry or sleeping when we are tired.  Our reward system in our brain has evolved to reinforce behaviors that promote survival.

Unlike serotonin, Oxytocin is very specific.  In a neurobiological chain reaction, Oxytocin binds to receptors that in turn free up serotonin in the brain's reward circuitry, creating feelings of happiness.  

The connection is when you feel the emotion of being connected with another human and produce oxytocin and in turn serotonin. Win-Win.!

 So our ancestors lived in tribes.  Let’s talk about ways you can build your own tribe. 

 One of the concepts that I think is incredibly helpful and fun is learning how to create a relationship circle, or your own tribe. I think oftentimes we think we need to find that one person who just gets us and then we expect them to meet all our relationship needs.  I have to admit I have lots of relationship needs.  I like having an intellectual discussion, I like creating, I like physical activity, I like to travel, I like the beach. I like girl time and getting my nails done and I definitely like eating.  I have breakfast friends, lunch friends and dinner friends.  I am not saying you can only do one thing with one friend, but it's nice to be able to have all kinds of friends.  

It is so great because our friends teach us things, they teach us compassion, empathy, tell us a different point of view and they can help us be better people. 

 I found this word called friendfluence.  Our friends influence our patterns of thinking. If you want to have a broad wealth of knowledge, have all kinds of friends. Friends have helped shape me into the person I am today.  I have been blessed with many wonderful friends, each of them unique and special and amazing in their own way.  

Did you know friends can help sharpen your mind?  They can help you know yourself better, they can challenge you and support you in your goals and dreams. Friends can help you define your priorities. People tend to pick friends who are similar to them. This fact falls under the general proximity rule of close relationships, in that like tends to attract like. Because we fall prey so easily to this similarity trap, it is important to try to stretch yourself to learn from some of those opposites.

 Banding together with friends can help you create social change. Two is more powerful than one. Fight for a cause, raise money for charity, or even just make a few small improvements in your community on your own. Friends can join together to create change. 

Friendfluence works both ways.  You need to be a good friend. “Being a friend is a great honor and responsibility, so treat your friends carefully” My two mantras are Listen, and Love.  If you can do those two things, you will make great friends

I want to tell you a story about mice.  “Mice can squeak, but they can't talk. You can't ask a mouse, 'Hey, did hanging out with your buddies a while ago make you happier?"  So instead, a research study was done called the conditioned place preference test.

We often like to hang out in places where we have had fun, and avoid places where we didn't. That is why we may love going to a specific vacation spot more than once, why we like to sit around campfires or sit on the beach or go camping.  These are the spots where we made great memories, memories with the family, and friends. Those memories were cemented by hormones like oxytocin and serotonin.  Hormones help create strong memories.  Just thinking about fun times you had can help bring up feelings of love and happiness. 

 So these researches wanted to test this theory out and they made a cute little mouse house.  

They gave the mouse house two rooms separated by a door.  The little mouses, (I like that better than calling them mice) could scamper along to either room they wanted at any time. First, they let the little mouses spend 24 hours in one room with their other little mouse friends, followed by 24 hours in the other room all by themselves. On the third day, they opened up both the rooms again and gave the little mouses complete freedom to go back and forth through the door to either room that they chose.  The researchers logged the amount of time each mouse spent in each room.

Like humans, the little mouses preferred to spend time in the space that reminded them of having fun and feeling good. The companionship of other little mouses was key to making the little mouse feel good. 

They tested the mice again in mice that had their oxytocin blocked and those mice did not change rooms at all. 

Being with friends releases oxytocin and oxytocin helps us feel loved, accepted, and connected. 

Spending time with our friends is important.  

You can give yourself a boost of oxytocin and serotonin in your own living room by training your brain. We control our emotions with our thoughts. 

Research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found it is possible for a person to self-generate positive emotions through compassion training in ways that make him or her physically healthier by practicing loving-kindness meditation.  Loving-kindness meditation changes brain structure in a way that cultivates empathy and altruism.

In this experiment, half of the participants were randomly assigned to attend a 6-week loving-kindness meditation where they learned how to cultivate positive feelings of love, compassion, and goodwill toward themselves and others. The other half of the participants remained on a waiting list for the course.

The loving-kindness meditation consisted of spending time each day sitting quietly and sending compassion and loving-kindness to four categories of people in a sequence. First, you focus on sending compassionate thoughts to a loved one or someone whom you easily feel compassion for, like a friend or family member. Secondly, you send compassion and forgiveness towards yourself. Thirdly, you meditate on empathy for a random stranger or group of people who are suffering. Lastly, you direct loving-kindness to someone you have a conflict with or find difficult.

During meditation, these participants focused on the phrasing "May you be free from suffering. May you have joy and ease."  Each day for 61 consecutive days, participants in both groups of the Fredrikson, Kok study reported their "meditation, prayer, or solo spiritual activity," their emotional experiences, and their social interactions within the last day. 

Their vagal tone was assessed twice, once at the beginning and once at the end of the study. Stronger Vagal tone has been associated with steeper increases in positive emotions.  As participants' positive emotions increased, so did their reported social connections. And as social connections increased, so did vagal tone. In contrast, participants in the wait-list group showed virtually no change in vagal tone over the course of the study.

 You need the social connection for your health and happiness. Those social connections provide your brain with the memories to use the loving-kindness meditation strategies to live a happier life. 

"The daily moments of connection that people feel with others emerge as the tiny engines that drive the upward spiral between positivity and health." 

This research indicated another piece of the physical health puzzle, suggesting that positive emotions may be an essential psychological nutrient that builds health, just like getting enough exercise and eating leafy green vegetables.

 We need each other.  I definitely realized in the isolation of COVID how much I need my friends and my tribe.  I also realize in this time of racial tension and turmoil across the United States that we need to listen.  We need to listen and we need to love.  

 Helping others makes us happy and gives us endorphins. Serving others is good for our mental health, our emotional well-being, and our self-esteem. And the laws of the universe have shown time and time again that those who serve others are more successful themselves.

 An old Chinese Proverb tells it perfectly, “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

 One more story before I go.  I was listening to a podcast recently and the presenter talked about a concept in building or carpentry called "sistering."   When building a strong, beautiful structure such as a house or a church or any other kind of building, carpenters take blocks of wood and create a series of beams to hold up some type of structure like the floor or ceiling.   These building blocks of the structure are called joists.  

A joist is a strong beam that supports a greater structure such as a ceiling or a floor. A carpenter takes boards and lays them together to handle a certain load that holds up the ceiling or floor. 

When incorporated into a floor framing system, joists serve to provide stiffness to the subfloor allowing it to function as a framework to hold up the ceiling or floor. 

Sometimes one of the board or joists may become damaged or weakened. They may become damaged.  There may be a leak, or there may be a certain spot where the wood is weak. Maybe there's a beam or joist that gets damaged in a fire, or maybe the original load just became too heavy to bear. 

When the builder needs to strengthen a joist or beam,  they will put an additional board right next to the original one. They will fasten the two together.  And sometimes they will put one on the other side also and fasten them both together to provide strength to that existing joist that was damaged.  In carpentry, this is called sistering. In order to build a strong, beautiful structure, carpenters use this sistering process often. As the carpenters “sister the joist”, the two boards support the weaker board.  Carpenters use the word sister as a verb. “Are we done sistering that joist on the left side of the house? Are the ceiling joist sistered? We need to sister the joist under the flooring.” 

Whether in carpentry or in life, we need sisters to help us carry burdens that may seem heavy, help us smile when we feel sad, and stand by our side to build us up.  This is what we do as women.  This is what we do as friends.  We lift one another up.  When someone we love is going through a hard time, or life seems a little overwhelming or the burden placed on our sister seems too strong to bear, we stand on either side of them and sister them up. 

I loved this story of sistering, I loved the story of the little mouses.  I wish I could jump out of my microphone and give you all a hug.  I hope you guys can soon hang out with your friends, increase your oxytocin levels and make memories by listening and loving. 

If you guys like what you heard today, please leave me a review on Itunes.  I really appreciate them and it lets me know how I am doing.  I have lots of fun things on my website, free worksheets, an amazing 12-week empowerment program.  Please go and check it out. 

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I hope you guys have an amazing week, Until we meet again my friends. 



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