- On May 3, 2016
A friend recently sent me a highlight she found in Health magazine of a 2008 study on the effect of social support on our perception of the difficult challenges:
When University of Virginia students were asked to stand at the bottom of a hill and rate its steepness, they judged the hill to be less of a climb when they were with a friend than when they looked at it alone.
There’s more: The stronger the friendship, the less steep they guessed the hill to be.
From a brain-body perspective this makes total sense. When we are engaged with others we have good feelings for, the brain chemical Oxytocin is more active. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that has the effect of reducing the stress chemical, Cortisol. If I was looking at a steep hill, I would definitely be generating some Cortisol, even if I wasn’t going to have to climb it! Oxtytocin reduces anxiety and generates feelings of calmness, confidence, and security around someone we like.
Additionally, friendship stimulates positive ‘gut feeling’, activates mirror neurons, and may have overtones of quantum entanglement:
“When two systems enter into temporary physical interaction due to known forces between them, and when after a time of mutual influence the systems separate again, then they can no longer be described in the same way as before… By the interaction the two systems have become entangled.” (Schrödinger, 1935)
All of which makes our perception of a challenge less daunting to our minds.
Whenever a tough task is before you—climbing the hill, getting in shape, dealing with loss, making behavior changes—it’s all easier with a BFF by your side (or a phone call away).
Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
–Bill Withers (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VL4ei-RE3Nc)
Photo credit: JMaliszewski, 2015, Zebras at the watering hole in Etosha Park, Namibia