Although miles and quarantine may separate loved-ones this year, it’s more important than ever to make the effort to write, call, video chat or visit safely with the people we care about. Those daily interactions add up to improved overall health and well-being and can even help the brain remain plastic with exposure to new information, thoughts and feelings.
Research has found that intimate and caring relationships with a life partner or close friends can help boost the immune system response and improve recovery rates in serious illnesses. Ongoing loneliness, however, has the opposite effect; without another person who is close to you, regulating your thinking and in turn, the nervous system, can become burdensome alone.
According to a recent Maria Shriver post, “The Power of Words”, many of the regions in the brain that process language also control major organ systems, hormones, and the immune system. This connection between the body and the brain helps to explain why we feel physical pain as a result of losing a loved-one or stung by an insult and uplifted by a compliment. Talking with a close friend, spouse, or family member can change heart and breathing rates and the body’s metabolism. And we can fall in synch with the rates of those close to us with whom we enjoy spending time.
Even interacting with a beloved pet has the power to calm the nervous system and promote better health. While so many people are working and living in isolation, the synergy between colleagues, friend groups or families may suffer. By making the effort to engage socially, giving one another an opportunity to be heard, people may not only be more innovative and collaborative but may actually help one another live longer.
Learn more about how the brain works with others to influence what it experiences in daily life in the newly released book by Neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, “Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain”.