Selfish

Friendships, Stress, and Hormones

This is a blog post I have been so looking forward to writing for the last two months!  Women lean in every time I share pieces of this content around a dinner table, in a workshop on friendship, or at a mastermind group.  It's not only crucial information for our lives, but it speaks so directly to the power of friendship that, even though I heard it first in a business context, I knew I had to share it with my blog community. Simon Sinek's Explanation of 4 Hormones You Need to Understand

I was happy to buy Simon Sinek's first book, but it's his second one that covers the content in this blog that I'm eagerly anticipating!!  :)

In early May, I attended Rock the World 2013-- a women's business conference in NYC--where Simon Sinek was one of the keynote speakers.  Simon is the author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (2009) and a motivational speaker whose TED talk is in the top 10 most-viewed ever!  But what he shared with us in May was some of the content of his next book coming out later this year.

Sinek relied on human biology to illustrate what motivates behavior, saying basically that our actions boil down to the good feelings we get from four key chemicals in our body: dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin.  When we trigger any of these chemicals in our bodies, we get a shot of something euphoric whether it's extra energy, joy, calm, or pride.   Here's how we receive those good feelings:

  1. Dopamine is the result of accomplishing goals, it's designed to help us find what we're looking for. Every time we see a finish line, cross something off our to-do list, or see movement toward our goals-- we get that shot of dopamine!
  2. Endorphins mask our physical pain and help us keep pushing ourselves to where we need to be. For most of us who live more sedentary and safe lives, our most common form of endorphins come from exercise. If you've ever had a "runner's high"-- you know this feeling.
  3. Oxytocin is one I talk about a lot in connection with our friendships as it reinforces bonds, builds trust, and relieves stress.  We get this from touch, meaningful conversation, breast-feeding, and when we see/experience acts of human generosity.
  4. Serotonin happens in moments of pride, recognition, and status. When we receive our diploma on stage, say "I do" in front of friends and family, or are the recipients of a meaningful award-- we get that shot of serotonin that boosts our joy.

Now, what I thought was super fascinating is that the first two chemicals you can get all by yourself.  You need no one else present to get your dopamine from crossing something off your to-do list or to exercise and feel the endorphins.  Sinek called these "selfish" hormones.

The latter two--oxytocin and serotonin-- are "unselfish" chemicals since we need someone else present in order to receive the rewards that our body wants to give us.  He gave the example of someone who could just receive an email telling them that enough credits had been accomplished and the bill paid so therefore they earned their diploma-- and that person would have most certainly received a shot of dopamine for reaching their goal.  But it's when that person dons their cap and gown and walks in front of everyone that the serotonin is released.  We need an "audience"-- someone to cheer for us or witness our success-- to give us that sense of pride and recognition.  And the best part of these unselfish chemicals?  BOTH people get the shot.  Not just the graduate on stage, but also the teachers who taught that student, the family that supported them, and their friends who did it with them.  Oxytocin and serotonin need others present to initiate them, but they also benefit all parties.

Warning: We're Not Getting Enough...

He connected these four chemicals to how leaders and businesses can better understand how we're wired to help create more healthy workplaces; I heard the whole thing through the lens of friendship. While all four chemicals have their "addictive" qualities to them, Sinek warned that they are only dangerous when they are out of balance. And I agree with him that we live in a culture that is focusing way more on the selfish chemicals than the unselfish chemicals.  We think it's easier to become workaholics to get more dopamine than it is to go hang out with friends to feel the oxytocin.  (And how much more so when we don't yet have the close friends we find meaningful!)

Furthermore, two other chemicals-- testosterone and cortisol-- are INHIBITORS of oxytocin.  In other words, when we feel stress or anxiety which results in cortisol shooting through our bodies, it prevents us from receiving the benefits of oxytocin which includes feelings of trust, safety, and empathy. We cannot build relationships of trust when we are in survival mode!  That has far-reaching implications, to say the least. So the more stress you have in your life, the harder it is for you to experience the rewards of trust, generosity, love, and bonding with others.  One short-circuits the other.

So here's my plea to the 22,000 women who subscribe to my blog-- please, please, please make sure you're intentionally adding oxytocin moments to your life!  Make sure you're not on an unbalanced chemical loop where you just go after accomplishment and exercise to boost you.  It's the selfless chemicals of oxytocin and serotonin that decrease your anxiety, turn your immune system on, facilitate feelings of trust, and basically make this world a better place where we can show generosity and love to one another!

I find it awesome that our bodies reward us to take care of each other!!!  And who better to be shining givers and recipients of this than all of us who are committed to growing healthy and meaningful relationships in this world!

Virtual hugs!

 

 

Self-Care isn't the Same as Selfishness

We Don't Want to be Selfish!

I've been told that in the Mandarin Chinese language there are two different meanings for the word selfish.  One definition captures the greedy-hoarding-take-care-only-of-ourselves mentality that we're all so afraid to ever be called. The other, though, speaks more of self-care, a nurturing and protecting of one self that recognizes we have to put our own oxygen mask on before we assist another.

There is a vast difference between the two.  And I fear that sometimes we avoid the latter in an attempt to avoid the former.

But we're smarter than that.  It's not a slippery slope where if you start caring for yourself it then leads to the selfishness we fear.  On the contrary!  I have found that the women who engage in the greatest amount of self-care are the ones who are least likely to grab, judge, condemn, compete, hoard, and devalue.

Healthy women show up in healthy friendships.

We Want to be Balanced!

And that's why I'm a cheering fan for my friend Jennifer Tuma-Young's book that is being released today: Balance Your Life, Balance the Scale: Ditch Dieting, Amp Up Your Energy, Feel Amazing, and Release the Weight. (It already has so many accolades, including being chosen by the Barnes & Noble Health & Diet expert as a "must-read" book!)

Balance Your Life book

While Jennifer connects her 100+ lb weight loss story to her journey of finding joy and energy in her life, this is not so much a diet book as much as it is a book about increasing your own positivity, awareness, and emotional health. All things that certainly can impact our bodies and health, but factors that also influence our relationships.

If we're unhappy, burdened, exhausted, or stressed out-- it becomes nearly impossible to engage in meaningful ways in our relationships. (And for those of us who know how important it is to consistently be inviting new people into our lives-- we also know that showing up for drinks with near strangers takes an extra dose of invested energy!)  The truth is that we have to do the personal work of being the kind of people who are healthy-- emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally.

When I speak on relationships I almost always have a woman raise her hand during the Q&A (or come up to me afterward) and try to convince me she just doesn't have time to nurture healthy friendships.  I used to try to give suggestions for how to connect with friends even when we're busy, but I've since learned that they have an excuse for every suggestion.  Which leaves me questioning them why they are asking me for help if they are already convinced that there is no solution?  They almost always are as certain that friends are a priority to them as they are certain that they are justified that there is no time in their lives.

My answer to them now? "Your life is out of balance."

I'm not a big fan of the word balance-- it conjures up a picture of someone on a tight-rope trying not to fall or someone with a scale trying to precisely measure equality.  No, it's not the metaphor I want for your life where you feel like if one unplanned event enters your day that it will throw the whole thing off.

When I use the word balance-- I mean is your life balanced, or in alignment, with the life you want?  Are you living in integrity with what you say is important to you?  If that woman at every event is convinced she wants friends but has no time for them-- then her life is out of alignment, off-balance.

The process that Jennifer puts forth in her book (filled with tons of coaching activities, journaling questions, and proactive steps) to help women evaluate their lives leads to a definition of balance that I can get behind.  :)

B-- Breathe

A-- Accept

L-- Laugh

A-- Appreciate

N-- Notice Nature

C-- Connect

E-- Experience

A woman who is rich in those words will be a woman rich with friends and meaningful relationships! (An entire chapter is devoted to each of those words alongside the technique that helps you customize a long-term approach that helps you find a way of being that feels congruous and whole to you.)

But whether it's through a tool like a new book, or through you just going back to what has worked for you in the past (more nature walks? scheduling in what matters to your life? getting enough sleep?), if you find yourself saying you don't have time for friends, I challenge you to examine your life and see if it matches up to what you say matters to you?

And Balance Comes Through Self-Care...

Living a life that is in balance with our values and priorities requires you taking the time to actually know what your values and priorities are!  And that awareness comes from self-care.  (I'm not just talking about manicures as self-care!  :) I'm talking about real mental clearing, life transformation, coaching/counseling, improved health.)

Even in the English dictionary I find that there is only one concept in the definition of selfish that should cause us pause.  And that is words like "only" and "regardless of others."

self·ish [sel-fish] adjective: devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.

But just because there can be an abuse of something doesn't mean we want to avoid seeking for the real thing.

Being devoted to or caring for ourselves is something I think we all need to pay more attention to, not just for our sakes, but ironically for those around us.

Which really, when you think about it,  doesn't sound all that selfish at all!  :)

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I cheer today for Jennifer who launches her book into the world.  Order it here on Amazon: Balance Your Life, Balance the Scale: Ditch Dieting, Amp Up Your Energy, Feel Amazing, and Release the Weight

And I cheer for all of us who make conscious decisions today to care for ourselves, in whatever ways we choose!  Hugs!