bonding

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!

 

 

Facebook and Friendship? Is It Serving Your Needs?

With all the hype of the recent Facebook movie hitting theaters, I feel a little inspired to rant-and-rave about the famous social network.

In media interviews I am almost always asked what I, a huge proponent of face-to-face friendships, think about all the social networks. And, without fail, I express that I a fan. I'm not out there hating on them-- in fact I use them all in my own life and business. They all serve fabulous purposes from reconnecting with old friends (my next-door neighborhood friend from when I was 6-10 years old just found me last week!), networking with possible contacts and enabling us to feel more connected to others by getting glimpses of their lives. However, let me clarify to say that just because they serve some of your relational purposes well, doesn't mean they serve all your relational purposes well.

I read one blog recently where the author seemed shocked that research reveals that most of us have 1/3 less friends that we used to twenty years ago. Her question was "with all this technology, how is that possible?" And therein lies the central problem-- socializing isn't the same as developing friendships that matter.

Five Purposes of Social Media that Could Limit Meaningful Friendships

    1. The Purpose of Establishing Outweighs the Developing. I find that social networks serve the two ends of my friendship spectrum pretty well-- they help me establish connections with people who might interest me and they help me stay in touch with the people who already matter to me. However, no social platform takes the former and turns them into the latter. Your time online might help establish commonalities with others but it doesn't develop the friendship into something meaningful without your intention. Your interest can increase because of what you read about them, but again, that doesn't make a friendship. At some point you have to intentionally foster the growth on your own as no amount of status updates will turn a contact into a friendship.
    2. The Purpose of Quantity Outweighs Quality. Our energy is automatically spread out over many people rather than focused on the few. The nature of social networking encourages growing your follower list. And for networking and socializing purposes-- that's perfect. However, let's recognize that if deep and meaningful friendships are lacking in your life then it's possible you're pouring your daily "one-hour of relational energy" into responding to 20 contacts for 3 minutes each rather than bonding with one person for the full hour. I've said it before, but some of the loneliest women happen to also be the busiest and most networked women. They mistakenly try to stay in touch with everyone and end up not close to anyone. It's easy to feel connected without ever connecting.
    3. The Purpose of Convenient Outweighs Connection. With most of us feeling tired after work, the idea of spending an hour reading status updates online in our pajamas takes much less energy then getting a drink with a possible friend on the way home. And it makes sense since we can feel like we're connecting with everyone without actually having to be "on" and hold up a conversation. Unfortunately, while you may now know what all your friends are doing back home-- you didn't really have any bonding experience that developed your trust in each other which is essential for intimacy to occur. You may feel updated, but it's doubtful that it felt meaningful. You may feel you know something about them, but that's not the same as knowing them. It was easy and convenient but doesn't fill the gap for real mutual connection.
    4. The Purpose of Bragging Outweighs Bonding.You can post an update about the promotion you got, but that's different from toasting it with a local friend. And vice-verse, knowing what they did over the weekend isn't the same as now feeling close enough to them to spend this next weekend hanging out together. We may become more interested in each other after following our updates, but if it doesn't turn into making new memories together than you're simply bragging about parallel and separate lives but not merging the two together. Bonding takes more than interest-- at some point, it simply comes down to time together. A bond happens when you create a memory together, not simply brag about two separate memories.
    5. The Purpose of Interesting Outweighs Intimacy .Our status updates range from the inane (what I just ate for lunch) to the interesting (whatever big, unique thing we want to wow everyone with), without always capturing the actual moments that matter. And for the record, it's not Facebook and twitter's fault-- our conversations in real life can focus just as easily on the boring, small talk, the celebrity gossip and the big stories that we hope will make everyone else jealous. But, certainly, the social network heightens the lack of real sharing, focusing more on announcements than conversation. We can forget that just because everyone knows that you have cute kids-- it doesn't mean they know what it feels like to be a stay-at-home mom, the actual fears you have about parenting, the longings you hold for your kids and the questions you are processing about your own identity. Intimacy requires vulnerability which social networks don't easily facilitate.

I love Facebook. I love twitter. I know how they can serve me. I also know how they can be limiting to the friendships I need if I am not intentional and mindful.

The value of social networks: the ability to Establish connections with large Quantities of people in a Convenient way to Brag about our lives and be exposed to Interesting things with people in our network, is no small thing!

However, if Developing relationships with a Quality Few where the focus is on real Connection that creates Bonding and leads to Intimacy then by all means be intentional about where you spend your time, how you engage and what you can do to make sure that social networking provides you the best it can offer without it costing you what you truly are craving.

Now... off to post this onto Facebook! ;)