Learn about ways to have bet­ter brain health

Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - Dr Jenny Brockis

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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