What health-conscious people forget about: toxic social norms.

Free hugs, being high-on-life, and jumping on a mini-trampoline: All of them transgress social norms.

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The social interactions that you’re having are unnatural.

They are undermining your performance by depleting your physical energy and elevating your stress.

You: Woah Jacques, take a step back! Those are big claims. Are you even qualified to make those statements?

Me: You bet. My whole life has been a research project on how to optimize my social interactions for my health and emotional wellbeing. Let me explain.

Human social interactions can either elevate your mood and energy or decrease them. And here, I want to argue that engineering your social interactions to serve your health is more important than what you eat or how you exercise.

In any culture, there are tacit codes of behaviour that influence our perceptions of what is acceptable and what is not, in any given social interaction. In other words, we are socially-conditioned to look, act, and connect in a certain way.

A lot of these socially conditioned behaviours are like air pollution. We notice them, sort of, but we’re so immersed in them it’s difficult to detect the harmful effects.

When you become aware of these toxic behaviours and beliefs, you can begin the process of naturalizing your social interactions. This process is all about going back to our roots.

What do you think characterized our social interactions before urbanization, or before civilization? Were they healthier in the caveman days?

You have probably heard the saying “The human brain can only maintain 150 relationships at any single time.” The truth is, the human brain is wired to react differently to different forms of human interactions.

My argument is that we are not wired for how we are currently socializing, and it’s leading us to age faster.

Let’s take a pause: What is one socially-conditioned social-behavior that harms your wellbeing? Comment below!

I think we’re ready to take action. We know that social-conditioning is leading us to socialize in suboptimal and unconscious ways. Now, let’s naturalize it!

Here are five socially-conditioned beliefs and behaviors that we must eliminate if we want to reap the wellbeing benefits of human contact.

Belief: It is acceptable to multitask during a face-to-face interaction.

Behavior: Looking at your phone while talking to someone.

You cannot reap the health benefits of face-to-face contact if you are not paying any attention. Plus, technology use is linked to anxiety and stress. Ask Siri.

Belief: It is acceptable to in’toxicate’ the brain while socializing.

Behavior: Drinking alcohol while one engages in recreational socialization.

I think this one is self-explanatory…

Belief: The more, the better.

Behavior: Having A LOT of friends, but no REAL friends.

The research on loneliness reveals that an alarming amount of people have ‘no one that they can rely on.’ Having close friends you can rely on is the greatest factor in predicting human longevity according to the Harvard Study on Adult Development.

Belief: Touching makes people uncomfortable.

Behavior: Depriving yourself of healthy touch.

What do I do when I wake up? I hug my co-founder. It’s consensual. It relieves stress. Unfortunately, most North Americans are suffering touch deprivation, or are outsourcing it to pets.

Belief: Joy is only acceptable during a special occasion.

Behavior: Repressing positive emotional expression out of fear of being judged.

Positive emotions boost creativity, reduce stress, promote social-bonding, and make life worthwhile. Their impact is so undervalued, and this is why I have chosen to teach people how to access them through human contact.

How many do you participate in? For me: two.

You see, no one is perfect!

Stay tuned for the next article!

Written by

Ph.D, Party Sci | Restoring community in western culture by applying the science of well-being, community-building, and experience design. Learn with me.

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