“It’s probably the single most powerful behavioural finding in the world”
After studying mind-body interactions at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, Charles Raison concludes that people who have loving relationships and rich social lives have stronger immune systems, take significantly less sick days and live longer than those who feel more socially isolated.
It’s long been understood that we are social creatures, and in fact, social interaction is necessary for our health and wellbeing. However, more recently studies show that feelings of social isolation and a sense of loneliness switches on genes responsible for increase stress and inflammation thus increasing risk of illness and disease.
In this context, loneliness and associated sense of rejection does not only refer to isolation but a feeling of social exclusion. In other words, it’s not about gaining more friends or the size of your social group but rather a feeling of inclusion.
In the book, Ultimate Truth, I write the following:
“Brain scans show a feeling of rejection lights up areas of the brain associated with pain. A sense of rejection is also shown to decrease problem solving abilities, decrease self-regulation, increase depression and aggression…A student survey carried out by Ray Baumeister at Florida State University found that the biggest factor believed to be protecting them from violence is a sense of connection and unity.”
Weather it’s in the working environment or during leisure time, the importance of creating socially engaging environments and social bonds for our own, and other people’s, health and wellbeing should not be underestimated. We should encourage environments in which people can gather to share their thoughts, to be listened to and heard with understanding and compassion.