When we are happier together

We are social beings.

Neuroscience has proved that we need to be with others, it has also proved the pain of not being so. It has proven that there is genuine pain experience when we are socially excluded, the same areas of brain lighting up when we are physically injured as when we are socially snubbed or isolated.

Recent research also suggests living alone or with poor social connections can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Holt-Lunstad, 2010).

Social science has proved through much experiment that in large groups we are drawn to fall in line with group behaviour, often making irrational decisions based in conforming rather than logic or knowledge. Such is our need to fit in. When we align our behaviours socially we feel accepted, we feel safe.

Further, Alex Pentland at MIT has proven that human creativity and productivity are significantly boosted by the casual interaction that we have with our peers.

Too often it seems we position ourselves on the basis of rational independence. We are not islands.

So what is going on?

As part of Passe-Partout’s ground-breaking Personal Best programme we explore the highly beneficial impact of stimulating certain neurotransmitters.

One of those, oxytocin, has a very specific role to play. It bonds us. It’s most celebrated achievement is the bonding of mother to child, but it plays a role in most social interactions.

Science confirms that touch is another great oxytocin trigger, though not a recommended practice for the workplace! Thankfully science also confirms it is produced when we are acting together or in conversation, when we connect, listen to each other, make meaningful eye contact and establish physical rapport.

We are rewarded when we come together, we are wired to cooperate.

Oxytocin is also tied to feelings of rest and wellbeing. When we really connect with others we create genuine feel-good moments. So whether we acknowledge a contribution, offer positive feedback, or share compassion or gratitude to a colleague we bring a little sunshine into the workplace.

It appears that John-Paul Sartre got it wrong, hell is not other people, other people are heaven.

Courtesy of oxytocin we do not just come together, it is the foundation of the social animal, it is the heart of what makes us happier together.