Human behaviour through brain perception
In this article I will mention Dr. Rosler Roberto, academic professor of the Asociación Educar, neurosurgeon with Honours Diploma, at the University of Buenos Aires. Professor of Neurophysiology, Psychopedagogy, at the Pontifical Catholic University of Buenos Aires. Coordinator and Professor of Neuroanatomy, with a Master’s Degree in Neuropsychology, at the Instituto Universitario Hospital Italiano. In some of his academic modules such as: “The value of affective bonds”, “The benefits of being grateful”, and “We are social beings”, he explains the importance of these topics so that we become aware of the impact on our brain, and making it a priority when it comes to performing in social spaces.
The value of our bonds of affection as human beings
The value of our affective bonds as human beings is of great importance since our brain, in search of survival, needs to relate to its peers, in a continuous way, being of great importance for our emotional and physical balance.
The healthiest societies are built by nurturing and valuing respect and communication with each other, resulting in a socially positive generation of affective human bonds.
Human beings are a highly sociable species, therefore, a lonely person can be emotionally affected and, as a consequence, become ill. For this reason, it is so important for homos sapiens sapiens, their life and the bonding relationship they have with their fellows, since our brain experiences emotional pain in the same way as it feels physical pain.
From an early age we should learn the great importance and benefits of relationships and the affection we give and receive in our lives, to take care of it and in this way take care not to leave any person alone and isolated, acting empathetically with their needs, integrating them to participate and interact in a given social group, in their different areas, whether school, work, friendship or family. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles invited a group of volunteers to participate in a video game, where, the first step was to leave out or exclude particular people. At the time of the game, the brains of the participants were scanned and those who felt a lack of belonging showed that the anterior cingulate cortex was activated in the brain, an area that processes physical pain. This happens with emotional pain because it has been very important for our ancestors to be part of a group or a tribe and that is where the power of their survival comes from. This is the origin of the confrontations to which prehistoric man had to submit himself and the risks involved in this natural world. Being alone gave the idea of not being able to face creatures twice the size and twice the strength of a single person, and the fact of belonging to groups at that time gave the idea of having more security, protection or certainty of survival.
Our brain perceives loneliness as something dangerous and therefore when we experience it, the alert system is activated and, subsequently, the release of stress hormones occurs. This leads to the interpretation of how difficult it must be for a person to be able to perform his or her tasks when the environment is one of isolation or non-acceptance in a social group. Specialists say that even the simplest and most gregarious species are affected in their health by loneliness.
Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychologist at Brigham Young University and member of the Society for Experimental Social Psychology, is a specialist in psychology and neuroscience. Her research focuses on the long-term effects of social connections on health, including an analysis of the effects of loneliness and social isolation on mortality. In his extensive research he has linked loneliness to declining health. The results found in all the studies clearly suggested that both being truly lonely and also feeling lonely have negative effects on health, and can be compared to the effects produced by obesity. This researcher, together with her team, determined relevant data in about one hundred and fifty studies, and came up with the idea that being unfriended is equivalent to smoking fifteen cigarettes a day.
Even after much further research, the findings that strong friendships and social relationships contribute to a better quality and longer life, highlighting that loneliness is affected by loneliness across the age range, still hold true.
Another interested study conducted by the Behavioural Medicine Research Institute at Ohio University in the United States found that people in loneliness are linked to the presence of diseases such as arthritis, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, etc. by lowering the sufferer’s immune system.
It is worth noting that being in the company of others will not remove us from the difficulties that life presents us with, but it will lessen or mitigate the effects of that stressful circumstance.
Throughout human evolution, our brain also evolves, with its basic mould where its prevalent design is to be part of social groups, to be in company, in contact with others, and this need will accompany us throughout our lives.
Those transcendent or caring behaviours will give more meaning to our lives, and give pleasure to our brains. This point highlights the areas and pathways of brain reward that we feel when we help others, or when we feel helped by others, as both parties are rewarded with the release of happy neurotransmitters or happiness hormones, which enhance our well-being.
To keep ourselves in good health we must eat healthily, do physical activity, complete with a good rest, are guidelines that people generally already know they should do, but they forget this other important part that completes our well-being and our health, which consists of saying affectionate words to others and to ourselves, hugging and embracing, giving a smile to others as well as to ourselves, laughing in front of a mirror, and invoking, in this way, the release of healthy hormones of well-being for our body.
By taking the time to share good conversations with good relationships, taking an interest in the well-being of our friends, family and colleagues in different areas, we will be cultivating our relationships on a daily basis. This behaviour will be a guarantee of good physical and emotional health and will be in a balanced way in ourselves and in those around us, generating pleasant emotions.
How we give of ourselves in every relationship
Being attentive to the ways in which we give of ourselves in each relationship will be of great use to us, since well-being will be reciprocal, and will surely influence our state of health and our emotions. The latter will have a positive influence on our attitude when making decisions.
Another important condition is to know the important role of communication between us and to know how to convey clearly and precisely what we want to communicate, as well as to be able to develop active listening with our interlocutors. At this point, we will be introduced to research that provides an understanding of our social brain. Human beings are highly social and we love to communicate, we like to give our opinions, to talk about all kinds of subjects, but there is one in particular that will give us great pleasure, and that is talking about ourselves.
Researchers from Harvard University presented a report stating that between 30% and 40% of our conversations are stories about us, about our own life experiences.
A professor of evolutionary anthropology at Oxford University, Robin Dunbar, after years of research, believes that people’s conversations in public places amount to two-thirds of the total time they spend in public, with personal narratives or gossip.
Surveys conducted on social networks show that more than 80% of the messages posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others, are purely personal stories and experiences of an immediate moment in the life of the person who relates it. What makes this data interesting is the discovery that we like to talk about ourselves a lot and, therefore, it will be present in all communication. To understand these motives that characterise human behaviour, Diana Tamir, who studies how people think about their own minds and the minds of others, uses a combination of behavioural, machine learning and neuroimaging methods to explain it. An expert in psychology from Harvard University and a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, she conducted research with Jason Mitchell, also a professor of psychology at Harvard University, in which a group of volunteers had their brains scanned by functional magnetic resonance imaging, while they performed a series of tests. These observations were taken at different study variables:
- While talking about themselves.
- As they thought about themselves.
- When they related things about other individuals.
The results showed that self-disclosure of personal data strongly activated the brain’s reward system. This reward centre is born in the brain stem, called the ventral tegmental area, where the neurotransmitter dopamine is released and reaches the nucleus accumbens, forming part of the emotional system, also called the mesolimbic pathway. From this research we can see that telling our experiences and personal ideas, generating bonds with those who listen to us, is due to the fact that our brain releases a neurohormone, oxytocin, which helps us to build friendly and trusting relationships that make us feel happy.
Oxytocin is generated by social trust and creates the sense of security we feel when we are with other people, which is called “bonding”.
One of the leading scholars of how bonds between people are and function, and how oxytocin is released, Paul Zak of Claremont Graduate believes that the release of oxytocin must be linked to a sense of personal well-being. This research was carried out on a group of women, those with higher levels of oxytocin also felt great satisfaction in expressing and thinking about their own lives.
For this reason, talking, listening to other people’s stories, or talking about ourselves, is enjoyable and helps us to broaden our knowledge with new experiences.
We should keep in mind that bonding spaces are a wonderful opportunity to broaden our way of seeing and perceiving life, with the relevance that these spaces give us, they are never a waste of time, on the contrary, having bonding spaces gives us the possibility to develop virtues, such as empathy, perspective taking, also to give affection and quality time to our loved ones and thus, to be able to have an extra quota of pleasure and happiness.
We can realise then that both communication and bonding are two actions that we should have well developed on a daily basis, so that our brain feels wellbeing and pleasure, contributing to improve our mood, feeling commitment and integration with people.
Being grateful also brings pleasure to our brain, as it helps us to appreciate a gesture or an action by someone, and leads us to feel a better state of mind. Several studies show that there is a broad relationship between gratitude and health. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, USA, followed a group of 186 men and women with asymptomatic heart failure.
The professionals found that those individuals who were more grateful and could see the positive aspects of life had, despite their illness.
The University of California research found that in all cases a high score on gratitude levels was associated with better emotional state and sleep quality, as well as lower levels of inflammation. Feeling good helps, but being grateful makes a noticeable difference.
So we say that gratitude is an important aspect of our life, and part of human socialisation; it brings benefits to mental health, physical health and interpersonal relationships. That is why it should be cultivated every day.
This research is worth going into detail, but in this article I have only mentioned it, to name its importance. Being grateful to our brains makes a noticeable difference to our sense of well-being and pleasure.
After analysing all of the above, we can deduce that we should be conscious of integrating and integrating ourselves and the people in the different areas or social groups to which we belong, so as not to isolate or isolate ourselves, since our brain needs to be sustained by affective social links, so that it can interpret “feelings of security” and without “danger of extinction”, sustaining the survival inherited from our ancestors.
From this we can link the effects of loneliness on health with scientific evidence, and we can also associate bonding with mortality, whatever the age range.
Transcendent or supportive behaviours are of a great pleasurable contribution to our brain, and will give meaning to our lives, whether giving or receiving, happy hormones will be produced in both parts, bringing wellbeing to our body. This well-being is built on a daily basis, by expressing loving words to ourselves and others, with hugs and smiles, by having good bonds and good conversations. These bonds impact on our physical and emotional health, with pleasurable emotions that are evidence of better decision making.
We will have to learn how to communicate, as well as how to listen. Our brain is so social that it loves to talk, give opinions and, above all, it loves to talk about oneself, and this brings it a lot of pleasure. Our brain takes pleasure in showing what happens to us, what we live in every moment, and this is corroborated by the rise of social networks, where we instantly post every experience we have had. Research shows that on these occasions the brain’s reward system is activated, activating oxytocin, which helps us to continue building trusting and friendly relationships, making us feel happier.
Finally, I conclude this article by stressing that:
- “Being grateful helps us to feel a better mood and has a strong impact on our health”, as they showed that a high level of gratitude is directly proportional to a better emotional state.
- Also, making those spaces for bonding and conversation gives us an extra quota of pleasure and happiness, contributing to feel commitment and integration with the people who belong to an organisational, sporting or family group.
- In addition, realising that our brain is very social and depends on how we relate to each other will be fundamental to finding our overall well-being.