[0:01:00] Podcast Sponsors
[0:03:56] About This Podcast: My Being an Introvert
[0:08:25] How Loneliness, or “Social Isolation” Negatively Affects Your Physical Health
[0:16:18] The Correlation Between Smartphone Prevalence and Loneliness
[0:24:25] Practical Things You Can Do to Fight Loneliness
[0:29:30] Podcast Sponsors
[0:37:11] The Chemistry Behind Face to Face Interactions
[0:47:02] 6 Ways to Enhance Your Life and Longevity with Love
[1:06:10] Closing the Podcast
[1:08:42] End of Podcast
Ben: I have a master’s degree in physiology, biomechanics, and human nutrition. I’ve spent the past two decades competing in some of the most masochistic events on the planet from SEALFit Kokoro, Spartan Agoge, and the world’s toughest mudder, the 13 Ironman triathlons, brutal bow hunts, adventure races, spearfishing, plant foraging, free diving, bodybuilding and beyond. I combine this intense time in the trenches with a blend of ancestral wisdom and modern science, search the globe for the world’s top experts in performance, fat loss, recovery, gut hormones, brain, beauty, and brawn to deliver you this podcast. Everything you need to know to live an adventurous, joyful, and fulfilling life. My name is Ben Greenfield. Enjoy the ride.
Well, well, well, we are close to the new year so I thought for today’s show, I would really take a deep dive into probably one of the most important things that you can do this new year to enhance your health, both your physical health and your mental health, and even your spiritual health. And now, I’ll let you wait with bated breath to hear exactly what it is that I’m going to cover on today’s show. Now, before I do, a couple of quick housekeeping items–they’re not housekeeping items, they’re how I support this podcast, they’re how you support this podcast.
Every single episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show is brought to you by my company, Kion. What do we do at Kion, we find ancestral nutrients like rock lotus extract and bitter melon extract and turmeric, and we combine these with modern molecules, things like cetyl myristoleate and glucosamine chondroitin. We have one of the most pure, not one of the, we tested against 46 other coffees, the most pure antioxidant rich coffee that exists. We have a clean energy bar that is basically comprised of all the superfoods that I personally sprinkle on top of my smoothie in the morning. I had those created into a nutrient-dense real food energy bar with a delicious chocolate coconut flavor, pretty much the bee’s knees. Everything you need is over at Kion, K-I-O-N. That’s how you spell the name of my company, Kion. You go to getkion.com. Ton of savings over there. We’ve always got amazing specials going on, wonderful articles, inspirational videos from yours truly. Everything is there, getkion.com, getK-I-O-N.com.
This podcast is also brought to you by Onnit. And one of the cool things that Onnit has now is the Onnit 6 Kettlebell Transformation program. Now, when it comes to something that I want to swing around to blast fat and build muscle, I could swing around babies or rocks or tree branches and logs or maybe some of those roosters my wife doesn’t like anymore and keeps asking me to get rid of because she just wants the egg-laying chickens. Anyways, I don’t do that. I swing kettlebells because kettlebells are pretty much the best way to get fit fast if you want cardio and strength simultaneously.
And my good friends at Onnit have put together probably one of the best kettlebell courses that exist when it comes to you not needing to learn a bunch of complex moves but just boom, get in, get out, zero decision-making fatigue and it freaking works. All the workouts are designed to help you lose weight and build muscle and move better and feel better. You can get it at onnit.com/six. Actually, I got one better for you. Go to BenGreenfieldfitness.com/onnit. That’s BenGreenfieldfitness.com/O-N-N-I-T. That will get you 10% off of anything including their Onnit 6 program. Everything, their functional foods and their fitness gear, everything. I like to say I like that. Anyways, go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/onnit.
Hey, I hope you’re ready to get all sentimental, not mental, sentimental; two totally different things. This is another of my notorious solosodes in which I talk to you and try not to bore you droning on. I actually do want to talk about something kind of important today, and it’s not about some of the stuff I’ve done solosodes on in the past like your diet or coffee. Eating and coffee are both really great things, but I actually want to get maybe even slightly woo and talk about a hidden health epidemic that I think not a lot of people are aware of but that we need to be paying a lot more attention to. And I’m going to tell you how you can kind of make sure for yourself that this bad thing is not going to happen to you.
I’m going to put shownotes for you for everything I talk about, every recommendation I make, every book I mention, everything over in the shownotes for today’s show. You can get that at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/friends. That’s BenGreenfieldFitness.com/friends, which actually gives you a clue about what I’m going talk about today because perhaps it’s genetics or perhaps it’s because I was homeschooled, K through 12 in Rural North Idaho. But I’m an introvert through and through. I’m the guy at busy conferences who ducks away to my hotel room to escape and go recharge my batteries and be entirely by myself. I thrive on long walks, not with people but by myself, multi-hour hikes by myself, long bike rides by myself.
I get exhausted at networking events and cocktail parties and I often slip away early to go to sleep or to curl up with Harry Potter wordage, not the person Harry Potter, the book, “Harry Potter,” I just need to clarify there, or to meditate and to breathe. And even at family events, like a lot of times, you’ll find me in the corner like reading a book that I found on a bookshelf even at other people’s houses. Sometimes I’m just like sitting on their couch reading one of their books or I’m at home strumming on my guitar or my ukulele.
Even when I was a kid, my parents had to coax me, persuade me and even threaten me with punishment to get me to rip my nose out of my book and be gracious enough to ever so briefly emerge from my bedroom to say a quick hello to any guests that we have at the house. After which, I would subsequently rush back to my room and curl up once again with my book, and I’d often read until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. I can consume several books each day and night when I was a kid, the library was my favorite place to be. It still is, actually, one of my favorite places to be.
A multitude of personality tests that I’ve taken including a test in the book, “Quiet Revolution.” That is related to the book Introvert by Susan Cain and the Myers-Briggs analysis. They’ve backed this up. I’m totally introverted. I’m a big fat eye. But at the same time, I’m completely happy being a loner but I now go out of my way to ensure that is uncomfortable or unnatural as that initially was for me to spend plenty of time carving out a couple hours each night for a family dinner and nighttime family rituals. When I say a couple hours, I don’t mean we’re like eating a salad for two hours long, chewing like cows on our cud, but I mean by the time we make dinner and hang out and have dinner and get up to bed and play some music and say a prayer and take the kids out, it’s like two hours.
I’ve also made more time in my life for connecting with old friends and new friends, attending networking events, scheduling time for things like book signings and meet and greets at conferences that I go to, or traveling to conferences period or for actively engaging in my local church or community or charity events even though a big part of me doesn’t want to do that. I’ve had to kind of transform myself even if I’m acting to a certain extent to do this and do a bit of a social butterfly.
So, why have I done that? Why have I kind of turned away from my desire to be an arrogant, hard to approach, uncommunicative asshole? Well, it turns out there’s this link between love and family, social connectedness and relationships and a longer lifespan. And in this solosode, I’m going to supply with a host of practical tips to include in your own life to live longer and have better health, because owning an amazing body or having a sharp mind or having six-pack abs, because I know everybody who listens to my podcast has a six-pack, that all can be for naught if loneliness and sadness and inflammation and high blood pressure and accelerated aging are all occurring due to a lack of friendships and social relationships in community, in charity, and love.
So, I’m going to teach you how to incorporate all of these into your life. We should tackle the elephant in the room first. Think about this. Imagine if you will, as the song goes, “Imagine all…” a condition, imagine a condition. Here’s what I want you to imagine. There’s a condition that makes a person irritable, depressed, self-centered. It increases the risk of dying by over 25%, dying early at least. And then imagine that in an industrialized country, over 30% of people are afflicted with this condition. And your income doesn’t protect you, your education doesn’t protect you, your sex doesn’t protect you, your ethnicity doesn’t protect you. And worse yet, it’s considered to be contagious. It damages your heart muscles, it causes premature death, and it can affect any ordinary person walking down the street.
This condition exists and you might already have it. It’s called–drum roll, please–loneliness; and it’s also known as social isolation. It’s stigmatized. It’s trivialized. A lot of times it’s flat-out ignored but it is fast emerging as a worldwide public health problem, oddly enough, growing hand-in-hand with so-called social media. And worse yet, zero physicians are trained in medical school about how to deal with this problem.
Now often, we tend to associate loneliness with being homeless or depressed or severely introverted, like yours truly, or having really poor social skills or social anxiety. But none of that is true, both human and animal. Longitudinal studies have shown that the deleterious effects of loneliness are not attributable to some fringe subset of isolated individuals but instead affect anyone anywhere. And in addition to the serious emotional toll that you’d expect loneliness to pile up on top of you, research has shown that the physical manifestations are also pretty grim. Studies have linked loneliness to cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, immune system issues, pain, fatigue, depression, excessive reactivity to stress, rampant elevated cortisol levels and high blood pressure, and that makes the effects of loneliness on par with smoking cigarettes in terms of mortality risk. Unlike other chronic diseases that tend to wreak havoc more often in older people, it’s actually young adults who are at the highest risk of this issue.
And when you think about it, there is kind of a bit of an ancestral context to this whole loneliness problem. I mean, when you look at human history from an evolutionary standpoint, you can see that extended isolation would potentially mean death because your tribe wasn’t physically around to nurture you or to protect you. And so we’ve developed these social contracts to keep ourselves bound together in bands and communities and tribes and extended families and social connections that actually turn out to be comprised of about 150 people, which is very interesting.
Let’s actually write a hole for a second and talk about that. It’s called Dunbar’s number, that 150, and that’s from 1992. This British anthropologist named Robin Dunbar was watching primates like monkeys and apes and they would live in these tight-knit social groups or what he called grooming clicks that seemed to be dependent on the actual size of the neocortex area of these primates’ brains. In other words, higher brain volume was associated with a greater ability to be able to socialize with a high number of companions. And the primate species with the biggest brains, they tend to have the largest social groups. And Dunbar figured the same principle should apply to humans and he was able to accurately predict the average group size for humans like the perfect group size for humans.
It wasn’t 5,000 Facebook friends, in case you’re wondering. It turns out that the maximum mean group size that he calculated is about 150 for the total number of companions with whom we can effectively socialize. Anything else we came up with other numbers like an intimate circle of 12 companions, 12, and as few as five very close friends. So, this number is accurately reflected all over the place. Like Roman legions usually had 150 to 160 men. Neolithic farming villages tend to have about 150 members. Even in animals it’s observed, like in farm animals. Increasing group size past optimal levels can increase stress and damaging behavior like feather pecking in hens and tail biting in pigs.
And the underlying theory is that once the number begins to significantly exceed 150, it becomes too costly and you lose personal intimacy and there’s too much social grooming effort required to maintain the size of the group. And from an anthropological standpoint, this makes sense because too few members of a group would make survival and activities like hunting or farming less feasible. I mean, just try to track down a woolly mammoth all by yourself with your little spear and your loincloth out there on your own. But then you get a large uncoordinated group of greater than 150 people and that means more weak links and less tribe connectivity and a brain that can become overpowered in an attempt to remember all the faces and the names and the skills and the roles and the stories and the history of every single member of the group.
So, in the modern era of social media and ever-expanding social networks, our brains have suddenly gotten stretched, really thin at a faster pace than what I think we can socially evolve and adapt to. So, social media has of course facilitated more effective collaboration and it seems easier to have more friends with Facebook and Twitter and Instagram to help us cultivate and maintain these relationships. But these enormous friend networks, they lack deep connections that we form via face-to-face, flesh-and-blood interactions and they can almost create like this distracting mental labor of trying to juggle the lives of 5,000 friends on a feed or hundreds of like Instagram followers, hundreds, it’s a lot, without deep connections.
So, our brains are just not socially wired to keep up with this communicative onslaught of a huge village. It’s way bigger than Dunbar’s number. And as a result of this distraction, the relationships that we do have can become more shallow and less meaningful. I wonder how our digital relationships would change if social media were engineered to allow for no more than say 150 online friends and 12 close acquaintances and no more than five intimate relationships. As a matter of fact, if I had 150 followers on Instagram, I probably initially would feel kind of bad about myself because you’re supposed to have like thousands and thousands, but then you’d probably finally develop closer connections and a better relationship. It certainly seems to me like it would make a social life and the development of meaningful connections a lot easier.
But anyways, away from Dunbar’s number, I’m back to this growing instance of the loneliness epidemic because it’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? I mean, we live in this hyper-connected society and yet one of the biggest uphill battles we face in terms of our long-term health is disconnectedness and social isolation. So, it’s far less common than it used to be to know your neighbors by face and name, to engage in face-to-face meetups and conversations and connected communities that aren’t separated by an electronic barrier and to be a child raised by an entire tribal community that surrounds you rather than say like a parent or two and then the schoolmates that you see for a little bit of time each day and then like Netflix on a smartphone.
We walk around with tiny computers in our pockets that can instantly connect us with like-minded peers and people from all over the globes you would think we’d be more connected to people than we ever have in history, but it’s not really the case. When you’re on Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat and Instagram and some fringe new platform that’s all the rage in Japan or wherever, you’re not actually experiencing relationships the way that you’re programmed to, and the way that you’re hardwired to from an ancestral standpoint. You’re not looking in the people’s eyes. You’re not touching them. You’re not feeling them. You’re not even experiencing like the invisible chemical signals. I’ll tell you more about those in a little bit that we create and we ooze from our pores when we’re around other humans. We’re even missing out on the electromagnetic signals that the heart can send out and the brain can send out. I know it sounds a woo but it’s a thing. Go look at the HeartMath Institute and the research they’ve done on this.
So, as a matter of fact, there’s a direct relationship between smartphone prevalence and loneliness. So, one study, this was in 2015, they showed a correlation between smartphone usage and loneliness in college students. And then in 2017, there was another study that found a significant correlation between smartphone addiction and anxiety, loneliness, and depression, and the link between technology and loneliness even more obvious when you look at teenagers.
So, there’s this one article I read in the Atlantic that I’ll link to in the shownotes if you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/friends. And it shows how as smartphone usage has kind of become ubiquitous, there’s this rapid and disturbing change in teenage behavior, and this began around 2012 when 50% of Americans owned smartphones. I actually got my first iPhone I think in 2013. And so the group born between 1995 and 2012, they call them the iGen generation. They experienced a significant increase in the use of smartphones and social media. And you probably don’t fall into that category if you, like me, can’t actually remember a time when you never even had a smartphone or you really even cared about any form of social media at all.
Like I still remember when I was a kid and you have like the phone at home, the landline, 208-746-0874. I still have my number memorized right from back in the day. But that’s changed a lot in the iGen group. So, teenagers now who spend three or more hours on their phone have a 35% higher chance of a suicide and a 27% higher risk of depression. And the article even says, “It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental health crisis in decades. And much of this deterioration can be traced to their freaking phones.”
Now, every single one of the social media outlets that you use every day, they make an implicit claim about the structure and organization of human interaction, because instead of direct interaction with others, we’re interacting through something metal, something electronic, something impersonal. So, the question we should be asking ourselves is, can we actually form meaningful personal relationships through an impersonal medium comprised of zeros and ones? I think. I’m not an engineer but I think it’s zeros and ones.
And it turns out that other people have asked the same question and answered it. Like there’s this author named Sherry Turkle. She has an awesome book. It’s called “Reclaiming Conversations.” And she’s been studying children’s development in a technological culture since the ’70s and she explains how children use technology, specifically computer programming, as a form of self-expression. Like there’s a 13-year-old in her book and he says, “When you program a computer, you put a little piece of your mind to the computer’s mind and you come to see yourself differently.”
And you could say it in a way that that’s like a personal form of self-exploration but it lacks a relationship, and it also lacks a prefix. Meaning, when a significant amount of your time is focused on an impersonal social media, you miss out on the interpersonal relationships that you can really only get by talking to someone face-to-face. So, virtual space is this place for self-exploration and dealing with real people who have a knack for being unpredictable, not computer programming. That becomes difficult after spending time in a predictable simulation. Do you get what I’m saying?
Take email, for example. In the workplace, email is used deliberately to avoid social interaction and it results in a significant amount of depersonalization. Like I’m personally guilty myself of talking to people more like robots and less like humans when I interact with them virtually, right? It’s very difficult to wander into somebody’s cubicle and slap a piece of paper on their desk and say, “Hey, I need this by Friday,” and just walk out. You got to do a compliment sandwich, “Hey, your hair looks nice today, Jeff. I really like what you’re doing with your hair these days. Hey, I need this giant stack of papers I’m about to slap on your desk by Friday. Tell your wife hi. Tell your wife hi. See you later, Jeff.” You don’t do that with email usually, at least I don’t.
So, what’s worse is you don’t get much interpersonal interaction and your emotional intelligence–they’ve actually studied this, your ability to be able to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of other people, that starts to suffer. So, people who spend a lot of time on the internet, they’re lonelier, they have more deviant values like they’re actually more willing to break social norms because they look at people more like robots and zeros and ones. They lack the robust emotional and social skills that are characteristics of high emotional intelligence.
I mean, here’s the newsflash. When it comes to social isolation and loneliness, you can’t fix it by getting more friends on Facebook or extending your Snapchat streak or having to pop up on your computer to reach out via email to some influencer on your digital Rolodex. It isn’t about developing the independent lone wolf that I, plus my smartphone, can survive on my own. Thank you very much. I personally maintain that attitude for a long time before I came pretty recently, like in the past couple of years, face-to-face with my own growing loneliness and social isolation.
Like I’d go to conferences and speak on stage in front of thousands of people and then I go back to my hotel room. I must be lonely, right? You have to go out of your way to build physical flesh-and-blood relationships in a robust community of people who will come to your rescue when your basement floods or who will show up on your doorstep when you’re moving into a new house, and people who will cry at your funeral. That’s right, cry at your funeral. That comes from the writings of one of my favorite authors, John Ortberg. So, he has a book that’s called I’d Like You More If You Were More Like Me. It’s a really good handbook for developing deep and meaningful and intimate relationships.
I’ll link to that too. Go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/friends. And he says, “Who will not be crying at your funeral?” Who will not be crying at your funeral? Your critics, people who write to you to ask for favors but you never hear from otherwise, people whose approval you’re constantly trying to gain, rich people who you think might give you something if you got to know them better, successful people who you think might make you successful if you hang out with them more often, people who kind of make you feel important when you’re hanging around them, people who are cooler than you, famous people you haven’t met or beautiful women whose pictures are on the internet but they don’t actually know you’re even alive, and all the little people in the jury box of your mind whose opinion of you matter so much but who aren’t thinking about you at all because they’re wondering what other people think about them.
Those are not the people that you should be forming lasting, long relationships with. Who’s likely to cry at your funeral? I’ll tell you. He talks about it in his book. Your children and their families, your wife, your brother, your sister, your good friends, your parents if for some reason you should die before your parents, people you’ve generally and personally helped, the people with whom you have true intimacy. So, the question you should ask yourself is, am I giving the best of my time in my life to the people who cry at my funeral?
Now, it’s interesting because a lot of the people who make that cry at my funeral list, those aren’t a lot of the same people you’re interacting with every day on social media and email, right? They’re rather those people in your life with which you tend to build true meaningful relationships that keep you from dropping into the dark hole of loneliness. Like I don’t email my wife a lot or my brother or my sister, or even my good friends, I don’t message them on Facebook as much as I see them in person. And remember, this is coming from me, like I’ve got the 5,000 Facebook friends and I have–I don’t know how many Twitter followers I have, maybe 60,000 or something, maybe 100 and, I don’t know, 15,000 Instagram fans and 8 billion Snapchat messages every day, but I still have to deal with loneliness every single day.
So, you can grab Ortberg’s book and read it, that “I Would Like You More If You’re More Like Me” book. It’s a good book. But if you want to cut through all the hustle and the hurry in the business and the “I’m too busy to hang out with real flesh-and-blood people” and instead develop more meaningful intimacy and relationship in your life, there are things that you can do, and I want to tell you how you can defy this social isolation and tap into really one of the most powerful emotions that exists that I think allows you to give the big old middle finger to loneliness.
Alright. So, you’ve probably heard of the book “Blue Zones” written by Dan Buettner, where he identifies these five areas where people live the longest, statistically speaking. It’s Okinawa Japan, Sardinia, Italy, Nicoya, Costa Rica, Korea, Greece, and the Seventh-Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. And he has this explanation based on empirical data and firsthand observations why these people live longer healthier lives. You probably heard me talk about this before on past podcast like less smoking, a plant-rich diet, low-level physical activity all day long, consumption of legumes, CrossFit. No, I’m just kidding. Family engagement and social interaction.
And in the book, he illustrates how important love is as the unifying factor between family, relationship, social engagement, community, and even points out the fact that research shows strong social relationships predict a 50% increased chance of a long healthy life. So, what is love exactly? Well love, technically, it encompasses a wide variety of emotional and mental states. It’s a very deep interpersonal affection seen in the love between say like a husband and a wife or a mother and a child to the simplest pleasure that you might experience when you take a delicious bite of cheesecake, raw vegan cheesecake or paleo carnivore cheesecake, depending on your desire.
And the range of definitions of the word love means the love of a mother differs from the love of a spouse differs from the love of food. So, most commonly though, love refers to a strong feeling of attraction and attachment. So, Greek philosophers had four different kinds of love. They had familial love, they had friendly love, they had romantic love, and they had divine love. And those all had different Greek names that I’m not even going to try to butcher. I know that romantic love is eros, divine love, I think that one is agape. They’ve got like brotherly love or friendly love, it’s philia. I don’t remember what familial love is.
But anyways, there’s love. It’s this all-encompassing virtue that incorporates kindness and compassion and affection and an unselfish loyal and benevolent feeling of goodwill towards other people. And this means that having love in your life is not just about the number of your relationships or the strength of your relationships or how many people love you, but it’s the attitude with which you engage in those relationships that predict a longer and healthier life. So, many people think they need to find someone to love them, but research shows that the greatest benefit for health, longevity, and well-being comes not from receiving affection but from giving it to others.
Maybe the additional question that John Ortberg should ask in his book was whose funerals will you cry at? Or like how many people do you have in your life whose funerals you’re going to cry at? That’s even more important than who’s going to cry at your funeral. And as a matter of fact, I tell my boys that if they desire true happiness in life, the very greatest thing they can accomplish towards that in is to identify their unique purpose in life then use that purpose to love God and to love other people, like to go out of their way to love other people. That’s even why we do a gratitude practice each morning. It’s scientifically I guess proven to increase your empathy towards others as you go throughout your day, and that’s love.
So, if meaningful love for others and social relationships increases your lifespan, then the opposite must also be true. And it turns out when you look at data from four different longitudinal studies of the U.S. population, there’s one really recent study that assessed the association of social relationships like social integration and support and social strain with measured markers, biomarkers for physical health like c-reactive protein and inflammatory marker, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, waist circumference, body mass index within the life stages of adolescents, young, middle, and late adulthood. These folks were freaking thorough.
And they discovered that a higher degree of social integration was associated with lower risk of physiological dysregulation in a dose-response manner in both early and late life. So, at the same time, lack of social connections was associated with vastly elevated health risk. Social isolation increased the risk of inflammation by the same magnitude as a sedentary lifestyle, especially for adolescents. And the effects of social isolation on hypertension exceeded that of clinical risk factors like diabetes in older people. And that’s probably because some of the same genes that are impacted by social connection also code for things like immune function and inflammation. I mean, it’s fascinating how intertwined this stuff is.
So, when people have a low social connection and they have higher levels of inflammation, people who live a, what’s called a eudaimonic lifestyle, that’s a lifestyle that’s rich in compassion and altruism and conscientiousness and gratitude and love and a sense of purpose. They’ve been tested and they have lower levels of inflammation. So, maybe all that turmeric and fish oil that you’re taking for inflammation should be accompanied by prioritizing relationships and love in your life.
Well, hello. I want to interrupt today’s show to tell you how you can turn your wrist into a conversation piece. That’s right. You can make your wrist look like gangbusters, totally gangsta. I don’t know what gangster is. I just like to say that because it makes it sound like you’re going to be really cool. There is this company called MVMT. They make sunglasses and they make a bunch of kind of like accessories for your body for both men and women, things like jewelry, watches, straps, you name it. But their watches, holy cow, they are good-looking. They have like the black tan, they have the Astro blue, they have one called the hustle. You need to go and check out these watches because not only do they look like amazing conversation pieces for your wrist if you’ve hung out with weird people who like to talk about watches because they’re bored and have nothing better to talk about, but if you want, seriously, a true classic timepiece on your wrist, you want to look good, you want your entire fashion wardrobe to just flow, MVMT has the best stuff.
Their watches start at 95 bucks. You’re looking at $400 for the same quality from a traditional brand but MVMT watches who has sold over 1.5 million watches now in over 160 countries–holy cow, they’re making bank. I’m in the wrong business. It was started by college dropouts. They crowdfunded the whole thing and now they cut the middleman. They go straight to you. So, they give you these watches that would normally cost you an arm and a leg for next to nothing. And you get another 15% off of everything that they do, including their wonderful gift boxes, their new styles, everything at mvmt.com/ben. That’s M-V-M-T.com/ben.
And if you want something else that’s very cool that you can wear on your wrist that will quantify your body, it tracks your sleep, it tracks your strain, your stress, your sleep, your recovery but it uses extremely accurate accelerometers, extremely accurate technology right on your wrist to track all of this. And then it gives you this handy dashboard that lets you instantly know right off the cuff of looking at your app that you are recovered and how hard you should train and how well you’re doing with stress, how well you’re doing with sleep. It gives you the sleep cycles, everything, and it’s all in this wristband. It’s called the WHOOP.
And what WHOOP is doing is they’re giving you a $30 discount. So, you get to join WHOOP for 150 bucks for the first six months that includes your wristband, and it’s very, very simple. You just go to join.whoop.com and use the code, BEN. Now, whoop is spelled W-H-O-O-P. So, it’s join.whoop.com and then you use code, BEN. That gets you all the discounts on this super cutting-edge self-quantification device for you, nerds out there.
And the whole altruism piece is really important too. Like there’s one study done by Stephanie Brown at the Stony Brook University Medical Center. She compared the mortality rate of people who were stressed in life but did not engage in efforts to help other people who were also stressed. And she compared that to the mortality rate of people who were stressed in life but made an effort to engage in altruistic activities and to help others. Now, the people in the study who engaged in helping others and supporting others ended up with a significantly lower risk of mortality, and that wasn’t the case for people who were simply recipients of care and support.
The key seemed to be actually going out of your way to help others no matter what your own lot in life was, no matter how stressed out that you were. And then they did another follow-up meta-analysis that supported those findings. They demonstrated that among a wide range of people, philanthropy and volunteering predicts a longer life, period. And they also found that volunteerism lengthens lifespan only when it was performed for purely selfish reasons. In other words, when you wish to help other people, you’ll reap the benefits from that. So, it turns out you can’t deceive your own body about your true intentions for helping others.
Let me put that in other terms. I didn’t explain that very well. It means that while it’s important that you’re aware that loving others and having lots of love in your life is a really potent way to enhance your wellness and longevity, you shouldn’t be going out of your way to experience love so you could decrease your CRP or your cytokines or extend the length of your telomeres. You could go out of your way to experience love because you actually genuinely care for your fellow man and fellow woman. Even if you don’t have that right now, as you make a point to love others, that will grow in you. You’ll build that because you relish the idea of hanging out with your family because being with other human beings makes you happy, not because you want to live a long time.
And if you’re anything like me, that takes time and patience and learning to bring yourself to the point where you can shove out of the back of your mind the idea that you’re attending a family reunion because you care about family and not because you heard it could be good for your physiology on the Ben Greenfield Podcast, right? The more you love others, the more it seems to create a positive cycle through in which you love others just because that’s what you do, not because that’s what you should do, if that makes sense.
So, it takes some time. So, I just want to emphasize, like don’t try to fill your brain with the idea that you’re just going to love other people to be healthy, or you’re going to love other people because you freaking want to love other people. That’s who you are. That’s who you become. So, you want to manifest. And it’s tough to love others if you’re not actually around others, right? I would know. I used to be at the guy conferences who would stand in the back of the lunchroom with a blank stare on my face, plus I was homeschooled, I didn’t really know how to do lunchrooms.
And I was just like paralyzed by the prospect of approaching a table of gabbing attendees to ask for a seat. I was like the student who sat by myself in the corner of the university cafeteria with my nose buried in a newspaper because I ever had the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times and USA Today every day in college. I was the guy who, upon first sitting in my airplane seat, would dawn my noise blocking headphones and avoid all eye contact with anyone who seemed to threaten me with an impending conversation.
And then I read this book by author Keith Ferrazzi. It’s called “Never Eat Alone.” And he has this circle of context, that numbers in the thousands. And I don’t know. It seems to rub against the concept of Dunbar’s number. That’s what he claims. He’s cultivated that circle for years and he’s built it based on what he says in the book is an incredibly important aspect of any relationship; generosity. So, his approach to never eating alone integrates networking, behavior, intuition, emotion, reciprocity, and trust.
So, ultimately, I had some of his book and I would go read it. I’ll link to that one in the shownotes too but I’d sum it up by saying that he encourages you to find people, sit down on a table with them and smother them with love by being truly and genuinely interested in them, not striving to get anything out of getting to know them, not waiting for the moment to rip the business card out of your back pocket and hand it to them, but offering as much helpful advice as you can give them based on your specific areas of knowledge and expertise. And I would even take his approach one step further and say that like, “You should make your goal to enchant and entertain these people and be that person who they want to be with, whether it’s a job interview or a lunch or a dinner, like you want to be that entertaining person that people want to hang out with.” Trust me, it makes life better when it comes to building relationships.
So, when I walk into a group of people, whether it’s a cocktail party or a bar or a conference lunch, that’s my modus operandi, right? I want to be able to help other people. I want to say something that’s going to make somebody’s life better or maybe just make them laugh or entertain them, throw food at them, anything, and I’ll throw food at them. You get what I’m saying like you need to be that person who’s out there looking out for other people, not yourself.
Now, it shouldn’t be ignored that his approach actually capitalizes on the connectivity provided by social media and the internet in this book Never Eat Alone. He describes at LinkedIn and Twitter and Facebook, they’re all powerful tools when used correctly and in the right dose. And he says that today’s kids, their social media-driven upbring will make them savants in some areas of relationship building and idiots and others. And so that means social media outlets shouldn’t be your primary sources of interaction but should be the places where you sync up with the global hive and the points from which you maintain your connections, friendships, relationships, you find meet-ups, you find like flesh-and-blood physical interactions, dinner parties, social events, other inherently human activities rather than say like —
Remember AOL chat rooms? I don’t know if you remember these AOL chat rooms like that’s the complete opposite. You’d go to an AOL chat room to find other people in your community to hang out with, not to hang out with them in the chat room. And that’s important because of this whole flesh-and-blood relationship piece. I told you I’d get into this. Actually, before I start to fill you in on more practical tips to actually enhance your life with longevity and love, let’s get into the chemistry of this, like Pacinian corpuscles. Have you ever heard of those?
So, if you’re the average person, that’s probably not in your vernacular, but everybody has them. Whenever anybody touches you, there’s pressure pushing on your skin at the point of the physical contact right underneath the skin or pressure receptors called Pacinian corpuscles that detect–let me spell that for you, P-A-C-I-N-I-A-N, Pacinian corpuscles, C-O-R-P-U-S-C-L-E-S. And they detect that pressure. They send a signal to your brain.
Now, you might know about the vagus nerve that snakes through your whole body but it turns out that the signal from these corpuscles travels directly to your vagus nerve. Vagus nerve wanders through the whole body, including major organs like the heart where it acts to down-regulate stress response, slow the heart rate, and decrease blood pressure. There are actually fascinating studies they show when subjects are asked to perform something stressful like public speaking or taking a math test that if they’ve been holding hands or being hugged, they have lower blood pressure and a lower heart rate compared to folks who have no physical touch interaction prior to the test. So, you need to make sure your teacher hugs you before you take a test or hold your hand for a little while.
In addition to stimulating the vagus nerve, that same physical touch gives you a decrease of cortisol and an increase of oxytocin. Oxytocin is this neuropeptide hormone also called the trust hormone, and also the love hormone, and it promotes feeling of devotion, trust, and bonding. This is why you’re not supposed to have sex before you go buy a used car because the sex gives you an oxytocin release and you’re more likely to trust the used car salesman. But most of the time, oxytocin is good.
So, when stimulated by oxytocin receptors in a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, those trigger the release of serotonin, and that results in signals being propagated to a variety of different reward system areas in your central nervous system and an overall positive feeling. So, antidepressants like Prozac and Paxil and Zoloft, those belong to a class of drugs called SSRIs, serotonin reuptake inhibitors or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. And those can increase available amounts of serotonin in brain regions but it turns out that the physical interaction like hugging and touching can naturally accomplish something very similar to an antidepressant.
The researchers who conducted some of the most groundbreaking studies on oxytocin’s ability to be able to trigger these serotonin pathways also suggest that oxytocin’s role in one-on-one bonding probably evolve from an existing broader affinity for group living. So, as hunter-gatherers, early humans likely traveled in small bands and lived in groups and relied upon this reward mechanism to keep them from engaging in excess or dangerous social isolation and loneliness that so many of us living in the modern cyberspace age face. So, we’re like short-circuiting our biology if we aren’t actually touching or maintaining physical contact with other human beings, like having real sex, not virtual reality sex.
And another study backs this up. In the ’70s, biologists discovered that prairie voles, which mate for life, have a brain packed full of oxytocin receptors. And when those receptors get blocked, the prairie voles quit being monogamous. So, species that are not monogamous like montane voles and field mice, they don’t even have oxytocin receptors. And much of the Turgenev say–I don’t know the–who’s the guy who wrote Sex at Dawn? You know, anybody who’s kind of like in the serial relationships or polygamous relationships. You should know that humans, we are chock-full of oxytocin receptors like we actually kind of do have a built-in neurochemical monogamy trigger. It’s very interesting.
And the researchers from this study, they theorized that the common group behaviors that all mammals engage in like cooperation and altruism and socializing, those are all reinforced in part by the happy feeling that results from the serotonin release that oxytocin can cause. So, there’s this other study where they took a special breed of mice that had oxytocin receptors and they put him in a special house with two rooms separated by a door the little mice could walk through at any time of day.
And prior to being placed in this house, the mice spent 24 hours in one room with their littermates followed by 24 hours in the other room all by themselves. And on the third day, the researchers put the two rooms together to make the house and to give the mice the freedom to go back and forth through the door. And then they logged the amount of time that the mice spent in each room. So, since these mice had oxytocin receptors, the mice preferred to spend time in space with the companionship of other mice. Then they took out the oxytocin receptors and they blocked them, and the mice really didn’t give a crap. They would just spend time by themselves in their own little room. Isn’t that interesting?
So, the surge of oxytocin released from physical touch makes your brain light up in a way very similar to rewarding stimuli like biting into a bar of dark chocolate. It makes you feel more trusting and connected and it gives you this cascade of electrical impulses that slow your heart and lower your blood pressure and make you feel less stressed and more soothed all from that simple touch that you can’t get via Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. Very similarly, there are pheromones. You’ve probably heard of these. They sell them as like attraction chemicals to young dating people who are frequenting clubs and want to attract others to them magically. But they do work. They’re chemicals that are produced by your body that generates significant attractive responses from the opposite sex, at least most of the time, its attractiveness responses.
They’re releasing the [00:43:35] _______ by sweat usually or urine or glands in the skin and they work as a kind of communication signal between humans of the opposite sex. So, androstenone, that’s a pheromone that’s produced by men in fresh sweat. Women love that smell. They love it, guys. Androstenone is a pheromone that is produced by–or andro– there are known androstenone. That’s a pheromone that’s produced by males. But you only find that one active in old sweat that’s been oxidized, and women find that over extremely unpleasant. So, if you’re going to go, say, out with women, maybe you don’t shower after you work out. But if you do that strategy, like go out right after you work out. I’m totally spitballing here. I don’t know if this is a known proven strategy, but I’m just saying.
And females produce a pheromone called copulins, which is at the most fertile stage of the reproductive cycle when secretion of copulins is at its strongest, and the smell of this can sexually arouse men and increase the sexual attractiveness of the woman who is producing it. And the complexity of this is very interesting, like when a female is ovulating, they find the smell of androstenone actually attractive, in part because they themselves are producing more of this copulins.
But under normal circumstances, like I mentioned, they’re repulsed by the smell of androstenone. And that’s why the pill, like the contraceptive pill, can make it so that women–I’ve talked about this on podcast in detail before but basically, it makes it so women can get attracted to the smell of a mate and then once they’re off the pill, they no longer find the smell of that mate attractive and they can actually find it repulsive. But then that sucks because you’re married to that person now and all of a sudden you find their smell repulsive because you were effing with your hormones with the contraceptive pill. It’s very interesting.
And in the same way that social media doesn’t allow for release of oxytocin dating websites and text messages don’t allow for the [00:45:32] ______ of pheromones, that occur in physical face-to-face scenario so that person you matched up with you perfectly on Cupid, you might actually truly be physically detested by the smell of their pheromones subconsciously and not even know it. Boom.
So, oxytocin and pheromones are just two examples of these built-in biological mechanisms. There’s a lot more but in an era that’s overtaken by a large part of human interaction taking place digitally, we’re missing out on the important biology of being in the same room with our fellow humans touching others and looking at others in the eye and hugging them and smelling them and smelling their armpits and engaging communication the way that we’re actually biologically hardwired to.
So, don’t get me wrong. You don’t need to be an extroverted social butterfly who spends every evening of each weekday hopping from a baseball game to a charity event to a plant foraging meetup to a bridge club to a dinner party to reap these benefits. A number of studies have shown that your own internal subjective sense of connection, compassion, or love suffice to protect your health, happiness, and well-being. So, that means that rather than dropping everything to go to an every cocktail party and meet up in golf game you’re invited to, it’s okay to just like have a few close friends that you can vide in, or a daily gratitude practice which you identify like I do. One person you can pray for or help or serve that day, or a weekly hobby or an event in which you’re around just a few select people you love and who love you.
So, I’m not going to end here. I actually have a few practical tips up my sleeve that have really enhanced my own ability to be able to surround myself with more love and help me to build a social engagement and a sense of community.
Alright, so let’s start here. Number one. I’ll give you six ways, six ways to enhance your life and your longevity even though you’re not supposed to think about that too much with love. So, number one is volunteer. And volunteering is a win-win for everybody because people who receive your help become grateful and you fill your own life with empathy and sympathy and love, and you make the world a better place. So, think about this. Number one, you can care for your parents. We live in this culture in which our parents and the elderly, they’re often relegated to nursing home and hospice. But in an ideal community, you’d sacrifice your time, space and money to bring your parent in your own home, the same as they did for you when you’re a baby. And even if they’re not living with you but they instead live close to you, you can drop by for coffee on a Saturday morning, you can mow their yard, you can accompany them on a shopping trip.
Like we shove our old people away when they get old or “useless” or sick. It’s the worst thing you can do. And I think we need to care for and honor our parents. That’s one way you can volunteer. Another way, you can help a local school. Educators are overworked and stressed while the children at many institutions need role models and people who care about their lives and behavior. You can volunteer to read stories to elementary school students. You can monitor outdoor activities. You can chaperone field trips. You can even work with a local church or other charitable organization to ensure that poor children are able to get food on the weekends when they’re not at school.
There’s a program in our community that we do at our church called Bite2Go that does this. And every week, a volunteer from my church drops off boxes of food at the school. You can visit a nursing home to sing or visit. My kids and I love to do this. And many nursing homes, they’re turning to just like dumping grounds for older people whose families are gone or unavailable or neglecting them. And many of the residents, they’re desperate for conversation and connections with outside individuals. You can pick up the phone. You can call local nursing home and you can ask them if you can come by and play guitar or piano if you can sing if you can help cook or take folks on walks or just visit.
My twin boys and I, we often go to nursing home and we’ll just play guitar seasonally, like around Christmas. We’ll play some Christmas songs around–I’m blanking on, on another holiday. So, we’ve done Easter, for example, or sometimes I’ll just go and play some country music for these folks because they love old country music songs like Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. And so you can go play for them. And hospitals also have many volunteer opportunities that include sitting with patients or working with children or foodservice or pushing wheelchairs.
You can even do what’s called Meals on Wheel, where you deliver meals to people in your local community. I grew up doing that. My parents did that with me almost every single weekend. You can coach a sport and a lot of kids don’t get the opportunity to participate in sports because there aren’t enough coaches or assistants. So, even if you’re not a pro for the sport you’ve chosen the help in, you can volunteer to coach for your own kids’ team or any local youth sports team. So, I’ve done this for like Valley Boys and Girls Club Basketball and some local sports camps at my university, and even my twin boys’ sports teams. You can tutor.
So, from children to adults, there are robust opportunities and many communities to tutor students, to teach literacy, cooking, sewing, or home repairs, or instruct English as a second language, or help with classes on computers and other skills, especially in the senior community surprisingly, there’s a need for tutors. You can deliver meals like I mentioned. I grew up in a family that delivered meals on wheels to the homeless and the unemployed and the elderly and the poor each week. It was my favorite thing to do was go up and ring the doorbell and you’d put your door to the ear and listen for the creaking sounds and a little yapping dog and the person open the door and you give them their little meal with the foil on it.
A lot of communities have programs like this and some that even allow you to help with the meal prep. You can become a docent. What’s a docent? It might not be in your language. It’s a trained guide. You lead people through facilities like museums and art galleries and presidential libraries and aquariums and zoos and universities and a lot of times, these institutions will train you for free. You can serve in your own neighborhood, right? In our modern era of digital connections, it’s all too common for neighbors not to know one another since you can easily join a Facebook group that has avatars with far more similar interests than the person who lives next door to you, but you can do neighborhood barbecues, beautification projects, neighborhood dinners, helping your neighbor mow or shovel snow.
I think everybody should know the name of their neighbor and the face of their neighbor. We recently would visit every single house in our neighborhood and we live out of a stick. So, this took like an hour and a half of walking around. We gave everybody a bottle of wine and a note with our cell phone number on it and a picture of our whole family and our names and told them if they ever needed anything, like with something heavy or God forbid like digging a fire line, whatever, that we would be there at their beck and call. And I think that’s important to do.
You can actually put a picture over on my Instagram channel of what the car looks like and what it looked like when we went around the community. I filled up my backpack with tons of pounds of wine and cards and just set out and did it. So, I’ll link to that. Go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/friends. I’ll link to that post if I can find it. You could throw dinner parties. That’s number two. One, you can volunteer. Two, you could throw dinner parties. Like my friend Jayson Gaignard, who wrote this really good book called Mastermind Dinners. He built his entire career. He puts on one of the best events I ever go to each year called Mastermind Talks. But he also connects people in networks during the year via hosting what he calls Mastermind Dinners.
And there’s Keith Ferrazzi’s book, like I mentioned earlier, called Never Eat Alone. That highlights the importance of convening people over food. But Jayson has like perfected and systematized the process. He organizes dinners in major cities across the U.S. and Canada, usually just does like six to eight people for the intimate sweet spot to really get people to know one another. And then he really encourages people to look for uncommon commonalities and make it more likely that everybody’s going to resonate with one another.
The book goes into far more detail. Again, it’s called Mastermind Dinners. And I highly recommend you give it a read. But ultimately, a huge amount of community building power lies in the simple act of throwing a dinner at your house or in the local community, like at a restaurant about once a month. And that really helps you reconnect with old ties and connect people who should know each other and connect with people who you’ve meant to connect with for a long time. People love to do that over dinner. Just do me a favor. Leave the cell phone in your bag. There’s actually like a rule at some of these dinners where the first person who checked their phone pays the check. I love that idea. I mean, unless your kids are at home and you want to make sure the babysitter is not texting you or whatever and like, yeah, you get it.
Number three would be to find meetups. So, meetups.com is a great website, ironically enough. Go to the internet, find people. But you could find flesh-and-blood people come together for hiking, tennis, business, networking, plant foraging. The best website like I mentioned is meetup.com. It’s free. It costs money if you want to form a group yourself, but other than that, it’s free. Reddit.com. You can find meetups on Reddit. And then there are apps like Scout or Excuses to Meet or Hey or Vina or With. I’ll link to all these in the shownotes. I’m currently a member of a plant foraging meetup. So, if we all die of mushroom poisoning, we’re going to all die together, and a singer-songwriter meetup. So, if you go to a meetup just one time, you’re going to connect with at least one similarly interested person, probably.
Number four would be church. Churches are places where a lot of people gather every single week. And you can develop some pretty deep personal meaningful relationship with like-minded individuals who also believe in things like peace and love and joy and positive emotions and purpose and belief in a higher power. That’s another part of Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones. And I’ll admit, like the modern church, it has a scarred and kind of sordid past of extreme judgmentalism and abuse. But if you can find like a local neighborhood place of worship, you’re very likely to find a great deal of love and care in that scenario and less likely to find like a dogmatic and socially intolerable scenario.
Even though I’m a Christian, as an introvert, I personally struggle with attending church, like I’d rather be wandering through the forest on an awe-inspiring hike while listening to a sermon on my MP3 player or just like speaking with God. But I also know I can’t just navigate through life as a spiritual lone wolf without the encouragement and collective worship and volunteer opportunities in church community. There’s even word for this in Greek. It’s called koinonia, and that means communion, joint participation, the state of uplifting fellowship and unity, and what happens when all these people come together and worship together in all their heart and brain signals are aligned. There’s even a growing body of evidence that demonstrates physical and psychological benefits of singing not by yourself but in a group with a whole bunch of people. So, I mean, if you’re not going to go to church, you could join a local choir. There’s a lot of ways to scratch that itch. But church was another one.
Number five would be to renew forsaken family relationships. And there was this study–it was more like a research project at the University of Cambridge. It was called Standalone. And they found that family estrangements arise from illness and divorce and inheritance arguments and partner choices and addiction. I found these are incredibly common and they tend to last a long time, like five to seven years. That’s a large chunk of time to–as the Bible verse says, “A lot of sun to go down on your anger,” especially when you look at all the research that shows bitterness and anger and hatred that builds up in your bones. In traditional Chinese medicine, it’s even associated with cancer.
I’ve certainly had my own fair share of family conflicts. I’ve struggled with bitterness against my parents for separating and judgment against siblings for relationship choices that they’ve made or for not being more responsible with their lives or their work or their families. I’m still digging through mending these relationships and trying to heal a lot of these family rifts in my life because I’ve seen a lot of the evidence. This stuff actually builds up in your body and can manifest as chronic disease.
There’s an Australian documentary called Look Me in the Eye, and that explores what happens when real families actually reconnect with one another and restore broken relationships. And it’s really inspiring how much people’s health improves and their life improves when they do this. So, you can reach out to that family member and try to choose a holiday time. Like right now, we’re on the holidays. It’s a perfect time to reach out because people don’t think it’s weird doing it on December 27th versus say June 1st, right? Over the holidays, people are very sentimental. And if you can travel to resolve things face to face or pick up the phone versus like an emoticon or a message like a smiley face, bumpy fist, bumpy fist, eggplant I love you, don’t do that. Actually, go and make the painful step of getting in the same room with the person, or at least picking the phone, calling them.
And one of the methods of reconnection they used in that documentary Look Me in the Eye was direct eye contact. They had neuroscience that showed that direct eye contact significantly helps people to communicate in difficult circumstances. So, that’s yet another reason to be present personally when you’re resolving conflicts. Communicate clearly. When you do it, acknowledge the issues, acknowledge your faults, lay all the cards out on the table and really be very open about yourself in any narcissistic or I guess like–and be narcissistic tendencies that you have.
There’s a really good book I’m reading right now by Robert Greene. Robert Greene is the author. It’s called “The Laws of Human Nature.” Amazing book when it comes to being able to communicate with people effectively. I’ll link to that one in the shownotes too, BenGreenfieldFitness.com/friends. And understand it’s going to take significant time and effort and sacrifice and love to rebuild trust and respect. But it’s another big one like it’s baggage you just carry without even knowing about it sometimes, those relationship issues with your mom, your dad, your sister, brother, uncle, aunt, your grandma, your grandpa, et cetera.
Next one, number six is just reclaim real conversation. So, there’s this really interesting interview with Louis C.K., very controversial guy, about children communicating via the internet and smartphones. This was on the late-night TV with Conan O’Brien. And what Louis C.K. said was–he went like this. He said, “And they don’t look at people when they talk to them and they don’t build the empathy.” Kids are mean. And it’s because they’re trying it out, they look at a kid and they go, “You’re fat.” And then they see the kid’s face scrunch up and they go, “Oh, that doesn’t feel good to make a person do that.” But they got to start with doing the mean thing. But when they write, “You’re fat,” and then they just go, “Mm, that was fun. I like that.”
And he makes a good point, like digital conversations are less empathetic, most likely due in large part to that loss of eye contact they talk about and many other important physical elements of human interaction. It’s easier to hide your true emotions behind the invisibility of an interaction to be a troll to feel less guilty or less hesitant about trolling or making offensive remarks or engaging in fake and inauthentic conversation.
In her book, Reclaiming Conversation that I mentioned earlier, Sherry Turkle refers to the opposite of this, like real authentic personal conversation. And in that book, she notes that it’s all too common for the dinner table to fall silent as children compete with phones for their parents’ attention, for you not to say a peep to the person sitting next to you on the airplane because both of you are sucked into the screen, and for two phones to be slapped on the center of the table in between spouses or lovers on a date which has been shown to detract from conversation even if you’re not on the phone.
I mean, I’ve personally developed the skill to be able to text message one person while I’m talking to another person and looking into their eyes. I’m very, very good at being disconnected and halfway connected all at once. I’m not justifying that. It’s a bad thing, but it’s so easy to do. And Turkle, in her book, points out that the case for conversation begins with conversations of solitude and self-reflection. We see loneliness as a problem that technology should solve and afraid of being alone. We rely on other people to give us a sense of ourselves and our capacity for empathy and relationship suffers when we do that with technology versus being with real people to scratch that edge versus like lying in bed on Facebook.
And that interview with Louis C.K. goes on. He says, “Just that knowledge that’s all for nothing and that you’re alone, you know it’s down there. And sometimes as things clear away, you’re not watching it. You’re in your car and you start going, ‘Oh no, here comes that I’m alone feeling,’ like it starts to visit on you and life is tremendously sad just by being it and you’re driving. And then you go, ‘Ah, ah, ah, and that’s why we text and drive.'” And he looks around and he says, “Pretty much 100% of people are driving around texting and they’re killing people, they’re murdering other people with their cars because they’re just like, ‘I want to be connected, I want to be connected, I want to scratch that itch for loneliness.'” But you can’t do it with technology. It’s shown that biologically over and over again. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t fix loneliness, right? It just makes the highway a very dangerous place to be because it can’t replace real flesh-and-blood face-to-face interaction. You can read that book, Reclaiming Conversation, to see what I mean.
And there are things that you can do. I think there’s a lot of ways that you can get away from your phone. Turn all push notifications off. I absolutely do that. Every single notification is off. The phone is in silent mode. If I’m at dinner, it’s in airplane mode or do not disturb mode. You can actually set it up so the only person that can contact you or call you is the babysitter and a very important person when you’re actually in a situation like say dinner with your wife or your husband or a loved one.
And you can even install addiction breaking apps like AppDetox which lets you set the limit of time you spend inside individual apps, or Flipd which blocks access to certain apps for set period of time, or Onward which allows you to track how often you use your phone and individual apps, or Forest which gamifies the process of easing you away from distractions. And in that app, you plant the seed and it eventually grows into a tree as long as you don’t navigate away from the app. But as soon as you ditch the app to check Facebook or surf Safari, your tree dies. So, that sounds gimmicky but it’s a very effective way to–kind of a meditative way to avoid the temptations that are rife with your phone.
We play TableTopics. At dinner, our family plays TableTopics where you sit at the table and there’s this deck of cards in the table and you just grab a card and this card is like, “If you could have any superhero sitting here at dinner with us, who would you choose and why? Or what was the scariest decision you made in the past year? Or if your house was on fire and you could put three objects in a backpack before you rush out, what would you choose and why?” And yes, my wife said the dining room table. She did. I’m serious. She was going to put the dining room table in a backpack somehow.
But you get the idea. It can seem silly that you need your conversation topics chosen for you to engage in real conversation. But my family and I have spent many valuable hours at dinner laughing and learning more about one another with this approach, and often, the questions rabbit-hole into deeper conversations. You can share gratitude journals, right? We gratitude journal every single morning. I have this gratitude journal I wrote. I created it. I designed it. I sell it. It’s at christiangratitude.com. We all fill it out in the morning but at night, we’ll often bring our gratitude journals to the dinner table and discuss what we wrote, what we were grateful for.
And when a family of four or group of two or a group of people embarks upon a conversation about what they’re grateful for, what they discovered that morning as they were doing their gratefulness journal and who they helped or prayed for or served that day, it again like TableTopics can lead to deep and meaningful conversation that can often last for the entire dinner. No cell phones required. And then you can also, this sounds gimmicky again, but you can just focus on the food. Allow me to paint out the painfully obvious fact that when you’re at a meal, you’re eating, you’re often filling your face with wonderful and interesting molecules that are highly conducive to conversation.
When I go to an expensive steakhouse and I’m spending like 200 bucks on a meal, I don’t want to sit there and talk with somebody about freaking their social media strategy at dinner. I want to talk about that meal’s taste and texture and presentation, the culinary expertise put into the food, like sip the wine, flavor taste the salt, try a new set of spices, discuss what your brain experiences. So, many people go out to dinner and they’re expensive dinners. It’s kind of about the food. There’s a chef back there putting amazing work into it. It’s okay to treat that like art when it comes out and to spend the entire dinner just talking about the food and what you’re experiencing with the food. That’s not weird. I guess it is weird and abnormal nowadays but it shouldn’t be. You know what I’m saying?
So, those are a few of my tips for you. Those are a few of my tips for you to introduce more love in your life. You can volunteer, you can throw dinner parties, you can find meetups, you can go to church, you can renew forsaken family relationships, and you can use a lot of those little tips I just gave you to reclaim real conversation. Now, I’ll put all this stuff over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/friends. I’ll lay it all out in like an article with links to books and everything.
So, I mean, ultimately like I said, owning an amazing body and a sharp mind can be all for naught if loneliness and sadness and inflammation and high blood pressure and accelerated aging are all occurring due to a lack of friendships and social relationships and community and charity and love in your life. But I hope that now, now that you’re at the end of this solosode, you’re equipped to include these important components in your routine. And also, do read, read Never Eat Alone, read Reclaiming Conversation, read Mastermind Dinners, read I’d Like You More If You’re More Like Me, read The Power Of Introverts. Or I’d take to–I mean if you’re slower, you can read all five of those books in a year, like one year of your life and it’s going to make your life better, I guarantee.
And I’ll even leave you with a challenge. This week, try this. Take a loved one on a date, your husband or your wife, your spouse, your kids, or an adventure or a walk or just like a quick meal or a chat but leave your phone behind, like not off in your pocket but figure out a way you could just leave it forsaken in your car like everybody did 20 years ago, which we didn’t have a phone we could drag around. And just note to yourself, it’s scary, right? It’s scary. It’s scary and it’s horrible and it’s addicting and you’re freaking out because what if somebody’s trying to contact you and what’s going to happen when you turn your phone back on after two-hour dinner and oh, you have all the emails and all the text messages and 18 different Facebook messages to respond to.
I don’t care how popular you are. I don’t care if you’re freaking Gary Vaynerchuk or some social media maven. You can turn off your phone even if you’re an Instagram butt girl for two hours to go to dinner, to be with somebody that you love, to prioritize love, life, family and relationships in your life. This stuff is important. You can be part of stopping the cycle of the growing epidemic of loneliness. It starts with people like you and me, just learning this stuff and making an effort to be more like real people, to be more like real people like our ancestors would have been. Dunbar’s number, right? It doesn’t need to be a lot of people, just a few, few real flesh-and-blood interactions in your life. That’s what you need to prioritize.
So, that’s my message for you this holiday season as we get into the new year, some things for you to think about. Thank you for listening. And if you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/friends, I’d love to hear your comments, feedback, your thoughts. And yeah, until next time. And hopefully, these solosodes where I just drone on are okay with you but until next time. I’m Ben Greenfield. Have an amazing week.
Want more? Go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com or you can subscribe to my information-packed and entertaining newsletter and click the link up on the right-hand side of that web page that says, “Ben recommends,” where you’ll see a full list of everything I’ve ever recommended to enhance your body and your brain. Finally, to get your hands on all of the unique supplement formulations that I personally develop, you can visit the website of my company, Kion, at getK-I-O-N.com. That’s getK-I-O-N.com.
I’m an introvert through and through.
Perhaps it’s genetics or perhaps it’s because I was homeschooled K-12 in rural Idaho. Whatever the case may be, I’m “that guy” at busy conferences who ducks away to my room to go recharge my batteries every few hours – something I can only accomplish by escaping the crowds and being entirely by myself.
I thrive on long walks, multi-hour hikes and extended bike rides – usually alone. I become exhausted at networking events and cocktail parties and often slip away early to sleep, to curl up with a good book, or simply to meditate and breathe.
Even at family events, I can often be found off in some quiet corner reading or strumming on my guitar or ukulele. As a matter of fact, when I was a child, my parents had to coax me, persuade me and yes, even threaten me with punishment, to actually get my nose out of my book and be gracious enough to ever so briefly emerge from my bedroom to say a quick hello to any guests we had at the house, after which I would subsequently rush back to my room and curl up once again with my book (I’d often read until 3 or 4 am and consume several books each day and night!).
But at the same time, even though I’m completely happy being a loner, I now go out of my way to ensure that (as uncomfortable or unnatural as it was for me initially) I spend plenty of time carving out a couple hours each night for a family dinner and nighttime family rituals, for connecting with old and new friends, for attending networking events, for scheduling plenty of book signings and meet-and-greets, for traveling to crowded conferences and for actively engaging in local church, community and charity events. In fact, if one didn’t know better, they might honestly mistake me for a bit of a social butterfly.
So – aside from my desire to not be an arrogant, hard-to-approach, uncommunicative @$$hole – why have I begun to incorporate such a strong emphasis in my life on optimizing friends, charity, community relationships and love?
As it turns out, there is a fascinating link between love, family, social connectedness and relationships and a longer lifespan. I’m about to supply you with a host of practical love tips to include in your own life for a longer lifespan and better health.
After all, owning an amazing body and a sharp mind can all be for naught if loneliness, sadness, inflammation, high blood pressure and accelerated aging are all occurring due to a lack of friendships, social relationships, community, charity and love. This podcast will teach you exactly why and how to include these important components into your own body, mind and spirit routine.
During this solosode, you’ll discover:
-How loneliness, or “social isolation” negatively affects your physical health…8:30
- Becoming more and more of a problem worldwide
- Correlated with the increased use of “social” media
- Physicians are simply not trained how to deal with it
- Can affect anyone, anywhere. Not limited to a particular demographic, i.e. introverts, socially awkward, depressed, etc.
- Affects a person physically as well as emotionally
- Ancestral roots of our social needs; “loneliness” meant the tribe had abandoned you.
- Dunbar’s Number:
- Total # of companions we can effectively socialize: 150
- 12 people in an “inner circle”
- Social media is effective for facilitating community but lacks the deep connections you get from face to face
- We don’t know our neighbors by name and by face
- We’re not experiencing relationships the way we’re programmed to
- Signals and “vibes” we give off in face to face
-The correlation between smartphone prevalence and loneliness…16:15
- Smartphone addiction and social anxiety
- Kids who spend more than 3 hours per day on a phone are at higher risk of suicide and depression
- “Not an exaggeration to say the iGen is on the brink of the worst social mental health crisis in decades…”
- Is it possible to develop personal relationships via an impersonal medium made up of algorithms?
- Book: Reclaiming Conversations
- Use of email depersonalizes social interactions
- Emotional intelligence suffers
- Book: I’d Like You More If You Were More Like Me
-Practical things you can do to fight loneliness…24:12
- Book: Blue Zones“The power of love”
- It’s more efficacious to givelove than to receive love from others
- Expressing gratitude increases your empathy toward others
- Altruism: Helping others who are stressed helps with your own stress levels
- Don’t be kind, help others etc. because you think it’s going to improve your health; do it because you want to do it.
- Book: Never Eat Alone
-The chemistry behind face to face interactions…38:20
- Pacinian corpuscles; travels to the Vagus nerve
- Release of oxytocin (don’t have sex before buying a used car)
- Seratonin (similar to anti-depressants)
-6 ways to enhance your life and longevity with love…47:15
- Volunteer your time
- Local schools
- Nursing homes
- Coach sports
- Deliver meals
- Throw dinner parties
- Find Meetups
- Church activities
- Renew forsaken family relationships
- Family conflicts engender anger, bitterness, etc.
- Direct eye contact significantly helps to communicate in difficult circumstances
- Acknowledge your faults;
- Book: The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Green
- Reclaim real conversation
- Louis C.K. with Conan: Digital conversations are less empathetic
- Real conversation begins with solitude and self-reflection
- Turn off notifications on your phone
- Apps: App Detox, Flipped, Onward, Forest
-And Much More!!!
Resources from this episode:
–Kion Ancestral nutrients, modern molecules, clean energy bars and the purest coffee you’ll find anywhere!
–Onnit 6 Kettlebell Transformation Program. A full-body, transformative workout you can do in the comfort of your own home in just six weeks. Receive 10% off your entire order from Onnit when you use my link!
–WHOOP By wearing WHOOP 24/7, you’ll unlock the secrets your body is trying to tell you. Get a $30 discount on your first 6-month membership, which includes the wristband, when you use code: BEN at checkout!