So, what does your brain have to do with relationships? The answer is, well, everything. Science has shown that specific neural pathways exist to actively help us engage in healthy relationships, and that in healthy relationships, those pathways grow stronger and stronger.
So the long and short of all this is that stronger neural pathways for connection make your relationships stronger and more rewarding. Unfortunately, though, the reverse is also true. In chronic bad relationships, these pathways do not get the extra stimulation they need. These neural pathways actually get weaker, and so do your relationships. And that is no small matter, because people who are chronically disconnected and isolated get sick more often and die sooner.
For these reasons, it is time to pay attention to your brain-relationships connections. Here are a few suggestions to get started:
1. Realize the power of getting calm.
Do your closest friends and family help you feel calm or do you need to take a vacation to Florida after being with your family for the holidays? The answer to this question is largely dependent on the functioning of your smart vagus nerve.
When you have "good vagal tone" this neural network (which innervates your face, inner ear, and throat) tells the stress response system to turn off so that you can engage safely with people. When vagal tone is low you may feel more irritable or even scared around other people. Of course, if people are dangerous, you want that sympathetic nervous system to help you fight or flee. But often, when someone's smart vagus is weak, they feel scared even when the environment is nonthreatening.
To bulk up your smart vagus try the following: