Scientists have discovered that social connection is so important to us that the pain of social injury (“hurt feelings” or rejection) can have a similar effect as actual physical injury. In fact studies on the brain have shown that social pain uses the same anterior cingulate cortex as the emotional component of physical pain. This discovery shows a direct link between our emotions and the physiological processes of the body – being socially unconnected can actually damage our health.
Making time to forget about the stresses of life and instead simply enjoy life with friends and family can have a big impact on wellbeing and even life expectancy. One US study conducted over a nine year period showed that those who placed low on the social network index were twice as likely to die as those who placed higher even though they may share other negative attributes such as smoking.
Strong emotional connections can also help heal our bodies. Meeting with others to provide mutual support not only improves feelings of wellness, but can significantly improve chances of recovery from life-threatening illnesses.