As humans, we are social beings. Just as we have a basic need for food, water and shelter, we also have a basic need to form relationships in social settings. The desire to be in a loving relationship, to fit in with your friends, to feel cared for, to receive invites to important events… these are actually essential to our well-being.
Let’s take the feeling of rejection, for example. When we’re rejected, whether it be a friendship, a job application, a romantic relationship and so on, it doesn’t feel good does it? When this happens, we tend to feel low, get down on ourselves and question everything from our abilities to our self-worth. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s acceptance. When we land that dream job, get that phone call back from a romantic interest, and are included on the guest list, it feels good. Leaving us feeling happy, confident and fulfilled.
The connection between our social lives, our brain and our happiness
In recent years, more and more research has found evidence of the brain’s inherently social nature. Anthropologist Robin Dunbar’s research showed that human beings have big brains to socialize, and that the most prominent indicator of brain size for any species is the size of it’s social group. This helps explain why human brains have evolved to be more complex and sophisticated than other mammals. Scientists predict that hominids (the homo heidelbergensis) with brains as big as humans today, first existed about 700,000 years ago in Africa. Strikingly, they were also the first to have a division of labor in their society as they hunted together and lived together, and they may have even been the first group to bury their dead.
Renowned psychologist Matthew Lieberman also researched the topic of social neuroscience and found that our need to connect with others is even MORE fundamental to our sense of self than our need for food. Pretty incredible, eh?
6 Reg Flags To Look Out For In Your Relationships
Since it’s evident that our social relationships play a central role in our psychological health and happiness, it’s important to choose them wisely. Think of being social like a “medication” – It can light us up, but it can also have detrimental side effects. When it comes to healthy social relationships that will contribute to optimal health, here are some red flags to look for and what you can do to foster positive change:
1. Giving up personal goals to please others
What to do: A sense of belonging is a huge part of lighting up the reward centre in our brain, but if we’re not careful, this can derail our health goals. Let’s say you have started a therapeutic diet with certain guidelines (such as avoiding alcohol) and then head out to a social event. Sometimes you don’t want to be “different” than everyone else, so you end up drinking anyways. It’s important to remind yourself that at the end of the day, we’re all bio-individuals, and it’s more than OK to have unique personal goals outside of our social circles.
2. Feeling judged on what you eat
What to do: If your friends or family judge you based on what you’re eating, it’s time to set some boundaries and make some changes. “Fitting in” is where our brain feels the most comfortable, so be the leader! Teach your social groups about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and make THEM want to be included and follow your lead. Going to a family party? Bring along a delicious dish that is something YOU can have – you’d be surprised how they’ll react when they love it!
3. Being afraid of what others think
What to do: We all tend to play a certain role in our family/friend circle. This is one that we see a lot in our patients at TMB. Here are a few common examples: “But my friends know I’m the person that will always order pasta at dinner, so if I don’t, they’ll think something is up”, or “But my friends know I’m the sugar queen, so they’re always questioning me when I don’t indulge”. Sound familiar? Trust us – people are treating you/expecting things of you because it’s how it has always been. At some point, in order to change it, you’ve got to break the patterns and teach them how to see you in a new light.
4. Hanging around the same type of people
What to do: If you find yourself around the same type of people from your friend circle, your family members, the parents at your children’s school groups and so on, it’s time to DIVERSIFY! We have a tendency to hang out with people we can relate to, but if everyone you’re surrounding yourself with has the same mindset, same opinions, same interests, same political views etc. as you, it can create a competitive environment because it’s easy to compare yourself to them, which is a recipe for feeling insecure and down on yourself. Seeing the world through another’s eyes/perspective can not only help you foster gratitude in your own life, but it can also take you away from tiny, non meaningful comparisons and help you zoom out to see the bigger picture. Plus, it can create challenges that can help your brain learn and grow!
5. Developing unhealthy habits
What to do: Did you know that if one of your best friends becomes obese, it nearly triples your chances of the same thing happening to you? How does that saying go again? …You are who you surround yourself with! Studies show that if we have friends who have healthy habits, like eating whole foods and exercising, we are much more likely to do the same thing. In contrast, if we have friends who eat fast food multiple times a week, binge drink and don’t have an established fitness routine, we’re much more likely to follow suit.
6. Being passive on social media
What to do: There’s a lot of discussion on the downside to social media platforms, like Instagram for example, but we want to highlight some of its benefits. Like we mentioned, being social is part of our inherent nature, so we recommend getting SOCIAL on SOCIAL! Instead of using it as a passive voyeur by scrolling through your feed silently just staring at images (We’ve all been down that rabbit hole!), dare we say actually become social (active) on social media! Comment on posts, tell your story, DM people, tag your friends, start conversations, reach out to others, and create actual connections! When we’re actually active on these platforms, that’s when we feel the benefits.
Speaking of social… get social with us on the ‘gram!
About The Movement Boutique in Toronto – Pilates, Chiropractic, Functional Medicine
Located on Yonge Street in Toronto, The Movement Boutique serves the areas of Summerhill, Rosedale and Yorkdale with Pilates classes and much more. Our philosophy is centred on a holistic, multimodal approach to health, grounded in the latest therapeutic techniques and clinical research. Our approach: Optimal health cannot be attained through a single therapeutic lens; injuries are often the result of a constellation of lifestyle issues, including dysfunctional movement patterns, trauma, nutritional deficiencies or destructive habits of mind.