BE SOCIAL FOR BETTER BRAIN HEALTH
Learn about ways to have better brain health
Human connection is critical to our physical, mental and brain health. We thrive in the company of others. Yet despite living at a time where it has never been easier to stay in touch, many people are reporting an increasing sense of disconnect, loss of empathy and loneliness. That’s why it is important to be social for better brain health.
OUR SOCIAL SMARTS.
Being socially savvy helps us to be more self-aware and alert to what others may be thinking. Accepting this may be different from our own world-view. Social intelligence (SQ) is defined as the ability to relate to and get on well with others, so that they are more likely to cooperate with us. Psychologist Nicholas Humphrey goes so far as to say that he believes our SQ defines who we are as humans. Social behavioural scientists believe our ability to form relationships is as essential to our survival as having access to food, water and shelter. Being socially connected amplifies our ability to learn, elevates academic performance, increases discretionary effort, our level of collaboration and even how generous we are. The paradox is that the loss of connection, those fractured relationships, lost friendships and broken hearts can a cause us great pain.
SOCIAL PAIN IS REAL.
It’s that time where you weren’t invited to that party all your friends were going to, or when a friend broke your trust and shared one of your innermost secrets on social media? It hurts. Social pain can be inflicted deliberately or inadvertently. A careless throwaway comment or social snub is a huge threat to our brain, triggering the stress response and activating strong negative emotions. Research has shown our social and physical pain neural networks share common pathways and while not recommended as a solution, taking Tylenol, a well-known American painkiller, can ease the burden of heartache.
MAINTAIN A ‘TOWARDS’ STATE.
The brain’s primary driver is to keep us safe. When meeting a new person for the first time, it takes just 1/5th of a second to decide if they are friend or foe. If foe, you’ll be looking for the nearest exit or
excuse to leave their company. If friend, it’s about identifying those social cues as found in the acronym TRAICE to keep you both in a ‘towards’ state for building a stronger social connection. TRAICE stands for Trust, Relatedness, Autonomy, Impartiality (fairness), Clarity, Autonomy and Empathy.
TOP TIPS TO BE SOCIAL FOR BETTER BRAIN HEALTH:
1. Be human. Say hello, start a conversation and ask questions. Being interested not interesting shows you’re genuine and care.
2. Smile. Smiling instantly put others at ease, helping everyone to think more clearly and wanting to contribute to the conversation. 3. Schedule regular catch-ups. It’s easy to let our social side slide when we’re busy. Rather than saying ‘we must catch up!’ set a date and put it in the diary. 4. Ask for or offer help. One major advantage of being part of a tribe is you don’t have to know everything – the group shares knowledge and information. 5. Be an active listener. Tuning in to hear what the other person is saying is the fastest way to build trust, empathy and relatedness. Developing our social smarts makes us happier, smarter and more productive. That’s why for it pays to be social for better brain health.
Dr Jenny Brockis is a Medical Practitioner and specialises in the science of high performance thinking. Jenny’s approach to overcoming life’s challenges is based on practical neuroscience which enables people to understand their thoughts and actions leading to effective behavioural change. Jenny is the author of ‘Future Brain - the 12 Keys to Create Your High-Performance Brain’ and may be contacted via her website.