As the study of human relationships (known as the "social neurosciences") continues to develop, the health-science community is discovering new evidence of how our relationship health affects our physical and mental health.
Think back to when a person promised to do something for you, but forgot, or when some said something to you that was rude, hurtful or embarrassing. When these kinds of personal transactions occur, they can stir up emotions of fear, anger and resentment and cause thoughts to become extreme. This can have a direct impact on our physical and mental health.
In the same way, remember when someone treated you with kindness and empathy and said affirming and encouraging words to you. Very probably, it resulted in positive feelings of warmth and peace and perhaps an increased sense of self-worth, encouragement and connectedness.
This social responsiveness of the brain demands we understand how not only our moods but also our very biology is being driven and molded by the other people in our lives. It also forces us to recognize how our own behavior may affect other people's emotions and biology. Indeed, we can take the measure of a relationship in terms of a person's impact on us and ours on them.
The most important findings of social neurosciences is finding that humans are wired to connect with each other. Our brains show that we are designed to be sociable. Ever our most routine encounters act as regulators in the brain, priming our emotions. The more strongly connected we are with someone emotionally, the greater the mutual force.
During these neural link-ups, our brains engage in an emotional tango, a dance of feelings. These emotions have far reaching consequences that ripple throughout our body, sending out cascades of hormones that control our biological systems from our heart to our immune cells. Experts in social neuroscience can even pinpoint a link between a stressful relationship and the operation of specific genes that regulate the immune system.
To a surprising extend, our relationships shape not just our experience, but also our biology and health. Nourshing relationships have a beneficial impact on our health, while toxic ones can act like poison in our bodies.