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Power of Connection - Cultivate your Social Nervous System

We wake up to so much angst each day and are constantly bombarded by negative images and events that increase stress to our already busy lives. It becomes a challenge to remember to take note of the positive things around us and the possibilities for growth.

Since embarking on my coaching journey and learning more about how we can take control of our actions to create sustainable behavioural change, I have become enthralled by the ever exciting developments in neuroscience.

My son in year 11 has learnt about the two major branches of the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic (fight or flight response) and the parasympathetic (brings us back to a balanced state) branches. However, he has not yet been taught about the latest understanding of another of our nervous systems - what neuroscientists (with credit to Stephen Porges, Ph.D) are calling the social nervous system.

The social nervous system is what enables us to have deeper connections with others that assists us in coping better in stressful situations. It has been shown that when we physically connect with one another, when we see a facial expression, hear a voice and enjoy eye contact, it stimulates a response in us as well as the other person.

Our minds and bodies are in constant connection with what is around us. We all have an energy that flows within and between us. An example of this is the MRI studies by Dr Uri Hasson which have demonstrated that similar regions of the brain (like the insula and the frontal cortex) are activated in both a person listening to and a person telling a story.

We know of other physiological reactions that occur with increased connection between people. The release of oxytocin, a powerful bonding hormone, which enters the blood stream when we enjoy good relationships is a powerful example.

Embracing your social nervous system simply means finding a social outlet for stress. Be more involved in your community, take time to volunteer, join a group, do something you have always wanted to do. Have a coffee or walk with a friend, have family meals together, spend time playing with your kids. Your mind and body will reap the many rewards.

In his article about the Third Nervous System, Dr. John Edwards puts this down to the pattern of our brain waves. Brain waves become calmer when we are connected with others and even after leaving the space of connection, we are able to carry the calmness into our nerve system and into our lives.

We try to function in a way in which we communicate and are in harmony with those around us. Often, we subconsciously look for people to empathise and share with. This increased connection between us has been shown to help decrease stress and to have a positive affect on our immune system.

What better way to stay healthy?

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