As I go about my daily activities I realize that I am surrounded by everyday people who tell fascinating life stories that broaden my thinking. Spending time with one another is powerful support for our well being. We were designed by nature's intelligence to be social animals. I am inspired to share these conversations with you via podcasts in the hope that you too enjoy them.
Just sitting with my 95 year old neighbor, Margaret, born on East 7th Street in Austin, Texas, I hear about when East 7th was "out in the boonies." During The Great Depression, her family moved to their ranch on The Perdenales River to sustain themselves, all contributing to the chores to make it work. On a visit with her granny as a child, Margaret was asked to go inside while the Indians passed through their ranch - now part of The Hill Country Galleria, in Austin. Margaret does not e-mail nowadays, so I would not have learned any of this had I not sat and ate cookies with her.
My teenage daughter and her friends reveal a lot about what is important to them in this stage of their lives during unexpected moments in the car and throughout a day. Though texting is their preferred mode of communicating, they would not have texted me their needs and concerns.
80 Million Years of "Relationship-Brain" Evolution
When we take the time to give someone a hug or share a meal with them in person - rather than relying on technology to stay in touch - we are also more aligned with how our brains were designed to help us relate - for species survival.
For example, there is a chemistry with interactions: endorphins and vasopressin are part of the process of bonding and love. Oxytocin plays a larger part in this: a neuromodulator and hormone, it generates feelings of caring and cherishing, encourages eye contact, increases trust and approach behaviors. Oxytocin triggers the bonding experience mothers have with newborns and the visceral "feel-good" of stroking a pet, and we all know how our animal companions help reduce our stress.
"In the long march from tiny sponges in the ancient seas to humanity today, relating well to other members of one's species has been a great aid to survival." (Bhudda's Brain by Hanson and Mendius, 2009.)
As our species developed, the "computational requirements" of selecting a good mate, sharing food and keeping our young alive and healthy was the evolutionary trigger to increase brain size and neural processing for mammals and birds. Reptiles and fish, who usually do not care for their young and sometimes even eat them, have smaller brains as a result.
When primates arrived approximately 80 million years ago, what set them apart was their sociability with one another - grooming habits, living in social structures, rearing young, etc. The more sociable a species is, the bigger their brain. Furthermore, great apes such as chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans, developed spindle cells, neurons that support advanced social capabilities such as consoling one another, laughing, crying, empathy and self-awareness.
As man began operating in small hunter-gatherer bands, competing for resources in harsh environments, those that cooperated with each other often lived longer and left more children. Bottom line, the survival benefits of relationships shaped the evolution of the primate brain.
The intelligence and divinity of this design process is miraculous. With that in mind, returning to the human need to spend time with one another talking about what matters to us, being vulnerable, and speaking our truth is important to our health in these modern times.
The first podcast is with a 15 year old "wise woman" named Zinnia. She lives in Britain and has traveled to 13 countries so far, giving her experience and perspectives beyond most teens. She introduces herself and reveals what her favorite school subjects are and why. She shares how traveling has catalyzed a project that she and her family have been personally involved with, providing a good dose of positivity.
I shall post more over time. Send me your comments. Let me know what you want to hear about and what would help you.
Podcast: Wisdom of a Teenager: Zinnia on School & The World Length: 2 minutes, 20 seconds
Use our newly-posted resources for individuals and horse riders - for relaxing, breaking fixating thoughts, planning a quality day, supporting your horse with groundwork, or putting a smile on your face:
Sheila Armitage helps individuals and organizations adopt everyday resilience practices that boost work, home, and health.