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Motivate Yourself 118: Social Functioning & Evolution

Have you been on holiday this year at all?
Being happy in my work I forget sometimes that my family might like to get away from things for a while and so we decided to go away with a large group of friends for a week to Torquay.
We did a lot of different things and visited lots of places but there is one particular event that still sticks in my mind almost a month later.
Quite simply, a friend and I nipped into the local pub for a couple of pints and to listen to some live music.
All these weeks later we still mention it when we see each other, but why?
What was so special about those few hours out of a whole week that had such an effect?

Well, whenever we talked about it, we tended to refer to the interactions with other people above everything else.
The 76 year old Jamaican clarinet playing poet who just called himself “Why”.
A fellow who calls himself Sandy Man who draws wonderful intricate pictures on the beach in the sand for donations, and refuses to claim benefits despite not having a job.
The bass player called Nigel that everyone seemed to forget about because the lead guitarist was the centre of attention.

It was meeting new people that made the night memorable.

Research into mental health has shown, time after time, that good social functioning is vital. But to start talking with complete strangers in a pub takes either confidence or at least an ability to handle anxiety.
We need a strength of mind to prevent negative thinking that can come from worrying about what someone might think of you.

Maybe its a fear of silence!
There was some research once that showed that 4 seconds of silence in a conversation between strangers was enough to make someone say something just to fill the gap.
On the 5th second, someone in the group would just blurt something banal out such as “Crikey is that the time already!” or “I wonder what the weather’s doing!”

More and more research backs up the fact that feeling included in society wakes up the happy part of the brain.
It probably goes back to evolution. If you’re a lone sheep in the field, and a wolf comes along you’re a dead sheep!
But if you’re in a herd a flock, a tribe then you’re safe.
Thing is in the 21st century, despite what the media says to try and frighten us into buying newspapers, the world is a much safer place.
We don’t have wolves prowling around us, and so don’t necessarily need the instinct to stick together to prevent fear, but it still has a benefit, so we may as well use it to our advantage.

Yet if you were to ask someone who is about to board a train whether they’d be happier to sit and silence and relax in their own thoughts or to chat with a stranger they almost always say “Sitting in silence, that would make me happier.”
But would it?

Well, no. Probably not.
Research has been undertaken a few times by asking train commuters to fill in a quick emotional wellbeing form to see how happy they are at that moment and then again later in the day.
When they sit in silence the scores don’t change. But when they chat to a stranger for a few minutes it goes up.
Just having a chat with a stranger for a few minutes helps us to become happier people.

So it goes against everyone’s expectations.
Because of 21st century anxieties of worrying what people think of us we avoid contact with other people and that may well make us feel worse.
Especially if you already have a habit of feeling judged by everyone anyway.
Going back thousands of years, the fear of rejection is a big issue, to be banished from your village, from your tribe, your herd, your flock meant you were going to starve or be eaten.
Which is maybe why, rather peculiarly, by exposing research participants to situations where they are being rejected you can see the effect that pain killers can have on the emotional responses!
Turns out that rejection hurts in the same way as genuine pain!
It uses the same neural system in the brain.
Rejection actually hurts.
So it’s no surprise that the biggest fears that people seem to have are about making sure that they aren’t rejected.
But just because there’s an evolutionary benefit to fearing rejection or of being judged, it doesn’t mean we have to hold onto it.
There’s an evolutionary benefit to eating fat and sugar but that doesn’t mean we all do, it just means that we have to work a little harder to make the opposing behaviour or thought process second nature.
But it can be done!

Episode List

Episode 138: Keeping Up With The Joneses
Episode 137: The Likeable You
Episode 136: Why It's OK To Be A Loser
Episode 135: The Psychology Of Extremism
Episode 134: Are You A Lobster?
Episode 133: Critical Thinking
Episode 132: There Is Nothing Either Good Or Bad
Episode 131: The For And Against Of Imagination
Episode 130: Loneliness & Social Networks
Episode 129: Letting Go Of The Past
Episode 128: What Is Love?
Episode 127: Procrastination
Ep. 126: Who Were You Before The World Changed You?
Episode 125: Stop Saying "Sorry"
Episode 124: Emotional Contagion
Episode 123: Patience
Episode 122: Building On Your Foundations
Episode 121: Dealing With The Critics
Episode 120: Being Assertive. Just Say No!
Episode 119: Inactivity
Episode 118: Social Functioning & Evolution
Episode 117: Unleash Your Inner Superhero
Episode 116: Goals, Values and Priorities
Episode 115: 10 Tips To A Happier Life
Episode 114: Lies And Confabulation
Episode 113: Confirmation Bias
Episode 112: Are You An Imposter?
Episode 111: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger
Episode 110: Are New Years Resolutions a good idea?
Episode 109: The African Violet Queen Of Milwaukee
Episode 108: Reframing
Episode 107: Spiders And Behaviourism
Episode 106: Practise Makes Perfect
Episode 105: Fear Of Flying
Episode 100 - 104: Happiness
Episode 99: Body Image And The Media
Episode 98: Evolution and Adaptation
Episode 97: Reflections And Regrets.
Episode 96: Dealing With Fear
Episode 95: Confidence
Episode 94: Enthusiasm
Episode 93: Tips To Relieve Christmas Stress
Episode 92: Dealing With Change
Episode 87 - 91: Self Esteem
Episode 86: Correlation Does Not Imply Causation
Episode 85: The Importance Of Being Lazy
Episode 84: Elephant Chains
Episode 83: Eating Bananas And Setting Goals
Episode 82: Ignoring The Media And Listening To Music
Episode 81: Awakening The Instincts
Episode 80: The Fine Line Between Love And Hate
Episode 79: The Best Medicine
Episode 78: A New Start
Episode 77: Time Distortion
Episode 76: Making Decisions
Episode 75: What's In A Name?
Episode 74: Pushing Ourselves Further
Episode 73: Conformity
Episode 72: Purpose
Episode 71: Perspective
Episode 70: Expectation
Episode 69: The Mind / Body Link
Episode 68: Overcoming Shyness
Episode 67: Mood Boosting
Episode 66: Sabotaging your goals
Episode 65: Self Talk
Episode 64: Money Makes The World Go Round
Episode 63: First Impressions Count
Episode 62: False Belief
Episode 61: Absolutes
Episode 60: The Psychology of feeling calm
Episode 59: Belief
Episode 58: Anchoring Emotions
Episode 57: Negativity and Perspective
Episode 56: Health And Happiness
Episode 55: Imagination vs Reality
Episode 54: Change