« The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos

BONUS: Beat Your Isolation Loneliness

2020-03-16

Many of us are being advised to stay at home and avoid social contact to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Human interaction is a vital component of happiness, so Dr Laurie Santos asks Stanford's Professor Jamil Zaki to explain his research into how we can maintain meaningful links to our loved ones, friends and colleagues even if we can't be in the same room with them.

If you have a question you want answered on a future coronavirus bonus episode then tweet @lauriesantos or @pushkinpods using #happinesslabpod

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
How happiness lab listeners I want to tell you about a new podcast. I think you're, like it's called the last archive and it features one of my favorite new Yorker writers. The Harvard historian Jill Uproar Jill asks the big question who killed truth. She looks for clues and events across the twentieth century from a brutal death in Burma to the invention of the lighted factor to the release of the polio vaccine. The last archive is, unlike any podcast you ve heard before, it brings history, the life with archival tapes, intrepid field reporting, an old timey radio drama reenactments. The last archive unfurled, like a classic nineteen, thirty mystery, but takes on the big issues of today. Wouldn't you like to know who killed truth then check out the last hour have brought you buy. Pushkin industries have included a trailer the end of this at the so you can subscribe today on Apple Spotify or ever you get your pot cast
Welcome to the first of some special episodes of the happiness I'd like to use my lung capacity. The now global out, corona virus is affecting all other. All this disease has brought a whole host of medical, economic and political problems, but it's also given us. Of uncertainty and anxiety, which are begin, to have an enormous negative impact on our well being but whenever I am confused or fearful, I always room were that looking for answers in evidence base. Science is the best thing to do, and that's why I'm hoping this podcast can help. for those of you that haven't listen before I'm doctor lorries enters I'm a professor, ology at Yale University, where, So the on campus, with students in the past two weeks unit
city life. As I know it has been totally appended. We ve halted research and classes and have told our students that they can't come back from spring break. They just have to leave all their stuff where it is in complete their studies online. The whole process has been stressful scare and really sad, my staff and I spent the last week dealing with problem after problem buying flights for students who couldn't afford it. And fighting through a web of emergency issues, and as of today nearly every one of my five hundred students is gone. Buildings that usually home with the sounds of hundreds of young people, will now be empty for who knows how its during and really lonely, I didn't I'm guessing many of you are doing right now. I began panics rolling if my social media feeds but it didn't provide the distraction. I was craving, though, this news, one making me even more anxious. I saw articles about panic, shoppers fighting over toilet paper right
but then I saw video that was a little more hopeful Millions who, according to their homes, had opened their windows to join together and so on it was just to that singing video, but I saw an article in the Washington Post written by one of my friends. Gmail Zaki Here is a professor of psychology at Stanford University and author of the book, the war for kindness building empathy in a fractured work. He's also genuinely one of the funniest and most optimistic people. I've ever met Jimmy Article was the first real breath of hope, I'd seen in a while. He You that our main weapon against the spread of kroner virus social distancing doesn't need to break the social bonds. You're so vital to our happiness. With my Tire community kicked off campus social distant The challenge that I'm really struggling with right now and it's probably a challenge your facing or will soon be facing So I decided to call Gmail to get his advice and rigour our conversation, so you could learn from him too. I started by asking about them.
Videos. I just seen as an empathy researcher Gmail has the scientific scoop on how people actually react in a crisis. His work shows that supermarket fistfight over canned goods are has common, as we think disasters and catastrophes are so interesting for this reason many of us have a stereo type, that when the lights turn off and the rules are gone there will I tell each other part, that's it like the purge are about that. Just under the surface, we this kind of violent instinct towards each other. It turns out it. Basically, the exact opposite is true when disasters happen like earthquakes or terrorist attacks or giant blizzards people, we're out of their homes to help each other. It's worth Rebecca, Thornley cause a carnival of compassion, see basically see people helping strangers in every way they can they like. Four hours to donate blood, over run charities and then start their own. They help people. And ignore boundaries of race and class, and all
social divisions that sometimes with separate them he's always is, though, a disaster in bring us all at risk makes us realise how much we have in common, but, what's really scary, The corona virus situation is that that's not happening great it. This is the paradox of, and really adds to tragedy of an outbreak like corona virus is that where we have these instincts that win things are going really poorly when we're inside under stress. We have these deepens things to seek out others. For their help and to help them to use would have, greatest strength with which is our connection to each other in one of the toughest moments but think about corona areas and other epidemics is that they force us for the interests of public health to going actually in the opposite direction, when we want to be together when we most need to be together. That's what makes this so tragic. Even another love- and I thank you
I seen it you're university. I know where now implementing social distancing right, so my staff is this standing behind this big row, this is really stay super far away and what's amazing, is people just normally have a hard time with this, like they want to walk up to each other and start talking. But I think in this moment people really want like Hugson, to be close to each other, and it seems pretty crazy. It's so weird, soon see people who are obviously struggling any. Do you have that impulse to reach out to them to make? contact to lay hands on rights to comfort each other, and you were being stripped of that. Possibility, it's really it really double down. I think on the damage of this epidemic, because it's already scary, already killing people in scaring. So many other people, but it also has the potential have these long term cycles you go. Mental health fall out from
increase in isolation. I mean we know that loneliness is between psychologically poisonous read. It produces depression and anxiety worsens our response to stress it: increases inflammation worsens our cardiovascular health. I mean it damages in ways that are quite long, lasting and so to add a loneliness epidemic to the virus. The demographic ready living through is really dig. You know it's, it's dangerous its. Tragic yeah mean loneliness, is bad, but the flip side is that social connection can heal us in these incredible ways. So talk about some of the research that shown how powerful social connection, Can be even in times of like physical and emotional trauma, They, especially in those times rate so people when they are going through stress if they feel as though there I loved ones around them, people who care for them. They are to bounce back more quickly from those stresses, the experience them as psychologically damaging they recover
trauma more easily, there's even evidence from the brain that, when people through pain phrases like getting zapped with painful electric shock that they experienced shocks is less painful if they're holding the hand of somebody who cares for them at a physical and psychological level that connection really buffers us against suffering and against anxiety and against many of the experiences that we're having right now, but an additional thing, that's really terrible about this virus is that it makes us avoid our fellow men in a different way right. We have to have this physical distance, but in some sense this curious thing for me, is that other people become a threat. It's like living in slow motion zombie movie right. The people who you love, people who typically would want to be around. You have the kind of look at them and they are they one of the infected re his. If that is not a great feeling I mean I was you went to the grocery store and was panic, shopping her toilet paper like everyone else, and somebody sneezed
crowded I'll, and it was like to be gang. Tackle driving it's it's frightening, because their voters, people in all of our lives and we want to protect them, but in order to protect them, basically the threat becomes other people. So, as you say, it's not just there were distanced if it were fearing other and is, as you know, this also can exacerbate and the divisions that are already between us has been seen a phobia and racism attached to some of the media. Some of the ways that people are talking about this virus, which often happens when people risk weird when they feel as though they are anxious. They often brighton the lines between us and them, which is and yet another way that this outbreak can be psychologically damaging, everything is really awful about this virus is that the people that are most physically susceptible to corona virus also seem to be the people that are most mentally susceptible to things like loneliness That's right, yeah end in especially all
adults suffer from an increase in loneliness and also suffer more from the consequences of loneliness, including the sort of added radio, vascular and immune risks, so France's it I met a analysis recently demonstrated that sort of ironic, severe loneliness among older adults. With significantly increasing mortality among older adults right we ve got this really. You know it the possibility that lying deeply isolated, can actually shorten one's life which again is, is really difficult. Given that older in our culture, getting this kind of double whammy. You know the sort of both from the these burden and from the burden of isolation. If the problem, so many of us are facing social ice nation and the loneliness that it brings I've said in previous editions of the happiness LAB Loan,
this, is as bad for physical health as smoking. Fifteen cigarettes a day which means that as we isolate ourselves to fight this off, virus. We might be harming ourselves in a different way and that's why I was so he's after up with meals, article he's come up with some practical solutions that he's implementing with his own friends and family for how we can physically isolate in a way that doesn't feel so socially slated, and I want to turn to those next. One of the reasons I wanted to talk to Jimmy also badly and to share this conversation with you is that you, surprisingly hopeful- that we can ten, you are meaningful interactions in a time of social distancing. I totally get how lonely it feels to be isolated, but the Great NEWS, is that this is work offers us some hope. I do think that this is going to be alone time for many people and is going to be a lonely time for many people. But one thing that I am trying to remember myself and tell as many people as possible is that Actually we're
going through something pretty similar. You know you. Behold, up in your apartment, working from home, feeling confused and scared and and lonely began What so are the other people who are normally at your office? So is yours third grade best friend, you know so your cousin ray. I mean we have more in common with more people than we usually do? This is in a way a vast shared experience. And if we could acknowledge it that way and try to truly eggs, It means that together, I think that we be able to call the more social connection, and then we realise right when you talk with somebody else, if both of you feel anxious a lot of things happen. One you realize that you Various is shared you're, not alone in feeling which you're feeling, in fact maybe feeling brings you together, you express care for one another and you feel supported,
and you feel able to support somebody else. Oftentimes comforting someone else is one of the best ways to be comforted yourself, because in doing so, you locate strengthen com that you didn't lies you had for the benefit of somebody else. I think we all share their instinct, but then, when we try to connect, we do in a way that provokes more anxiety like for me. I'm panic scrolling via which makes me feel connected to the other people on Facebook sword of, but it also really increases our anxiety. Yeah you're totally right of panic, skirl the fair amount myself recently panic scrolling for Israelis. An overload of really anxiety provoking information all at once. Soon army of just distressing facts that end and figures, but I do think that there are ways that we can more intentionally engaged
in ways that build social connection rather than just making us feel even more alone and worked up, and I think I run a clean by a lot of us- have spent most of the twenty first century, blaming technology for like tearing apart our social fabric and right now it might be your best shot for keeping that social fabric together razor I write a latin in my book about how technology can build empathy and a lot of it. Really depends on the way that we use it. So around like this around the corona virus and social distancing. One thing that I think we could really try to pay attention to his how can we use technology to have the types of interactions that we were we have in person right, so we don't normally just screw. Through each other's mines ray? We interact, live and try to share experiences together right. So I think that face time zoom. In these moments, I terrific right, but now just using those technologies like check in and
Ass people, how they're doing we should do that, but also to hang around together right, I mean when we have research meeting in person right, we don't just talk about and then leave we dawdle No, we cubits we guph off together and those in between moment are what matter most sometimes to a sense of connection to each other, so my thing has been: let's get online and do nothing together what the tv show with your cousin or work go. On face time with somebody and make the same he'll together and then drink some wine together Raymond, my lab. We have the room where we are used to this kind of hang out, and so created a zoom channel has just called the coffee room range is for people to take a break together, as I think that if we can use technology to recreate at least some of the informality and sense of together, we have in the end, log world, that there would be one really helpful strategy. What's so funny about that this,
dear to do more of our social events. View zoom in things like that is that our workplaces, I figured it out right. We instant, translate to doing like noon since learning or kind of distance like meetings. But we forget that we can do our social events at distance to I know it. It doesn't feel as natural ready music that were used using technology to work not to leave, and I think a lot of have the stereotype that technology is kind of anti social and etiquette. This moment is going to require us to really try get over that perception and challenges and push on it and see how much we can just be there with other online and even goes for kids. Write me so school closing in a lot of us are going to be hang out with our kids, while their isolated to, in its mean, if its heart, imagine how hard it is for them. Re kids depend. They social interactions site build their sense of self.
One thing that we doing is with some of our kids. Really good friends were buying the same calibre. The very young, so we're buying the same coloring books were buying same games and we're going to try to see whether we can do face time pleaded where again it's a co activity. It's not is talking because you know a two year old and another two year old iron necessarily going to make scintillating conversation four hours, but maybe they can compare what color They choose to draw the unicorn that working here, but I dont still have to make scintillating relation either right. I mean you forget that you can just pop down and like watch Rupaul dry grace heard someone else budgets over based on exactly and I think we should lower our expectations, for maybe that's another issue, with online interaction. Is we don't just over professionalized? We over pressure, we feel, is We should only be interacting so long as there is something to say, but that's not what we do in real life, so I just want is to bring the cat
On this in the informality of life offline into technological space, I think that's a really great shot. We have for it in connection right now. So what do we know scientifically about whether or not this technology works? Is their research showing that you can get this kind of empathic connection from people online? Just as much as in real life? yeah. I mean, I think that again we have stereotypes about online connections and we feel as though they are in thoroughly shallow words. Just a bunch of people hosting sepia, tone, selfies or pictures their last meal or whatever, but there's a lot, tradition of people using the internet to find real, deep connect maybe connections they can't find offline. So one example that I read about in my book is rare illness communities, so it out that rear illnesses are any illness that affects less than one one thousand people, but there Hundreds of rare illnesses, which means, paradoxically, somebody big proportion of of our community has An illness. Weird
friends and neighbors, don't know much about that illness and don't share their experiences. Some of those folks also have the self quarantine. For reasons that have to do with those on this is so they can be extremely isolated. Many of those folks take too communities like Facebook groups or stand alone. Websites like rear connect, dot, org and there's a lot of evidence that, on communities don't just share like information about the latest treatments or whatever they share their stories and it's an opportunity for them to feel scene, and you can think them is basically away of empathy. It does of connection for a lot of people and, if not just people with This is there a lot of us who have for its very then that we don't feel comfortable sharing with the people in our lives and ironically, the anonymity of being online, actually makes some people feel free to express vulnerability is that they don't feel like they can talk about in others, So there is a tradition of real
true and deep. Empathy on the internet is one that we will all have to tap into more now. You ve seen it apples of this. Even at your university, where folks are using technology to bring students together, that's right, yes, I teach a little seminar, Fur Stanford, freshmen called becoming kinder and its all about designing experiences interventions to help people tap into their really deep, seated desire to help within connect with one and and so of course when credit virus it, and we were all meeting by zoom. The first thing we're talkin. That is how do we recover this in and they spontaneous said. Well, you know what we eat together. All the time. You know dining hall, that sort of them there arteries of social life. On a college campuses, why need to be eating alone, just because we're in different parts of the country, so they have now created, but it is in this its autonomy. The creator dining hall that a virtual and they ve created Torme lounges that are virtual as well, so we actually do differ.
Types of hanging out in different in different places I mean this current of irish thing is incredibly scary, both in terms of our physical health, but also in terms of our mental health. Are you hopeful that we can really use these technologies to bring ourselves together in the scary time, This is a scary time. It will continue to be scary and it will be sad, and I think that I am hopeful that we can work together. I'm always hopeful that we can work together. That's what our species is best at and I think that we can work together. This is well. I think it will be important to do a couple of things, one to bring the most vulnerable people into these countries. Visions right. So my kids, a digital natives made college students digital natives. My parents are not, and older people are not just the most susceptible to dangerous symptoms from current a virus there, the most susceptible to isolation. I think it's going to be important for being. This is in the way that we generate what digital or
others have interactions. We can manage this one. A point that I want to make, which is that you you said earlier. One of the top things about an epidemic is that we have this desire to be kind to help. Others We need to win win win when we're going through something together that allows us to assert community, in control in a time that we otherwise feel helpless, and one of the things that the hard about this moment that it's hard to find ways to help other people, but one is to remember something: social distancing for many of us is something that we're doing to be kind to others. Very young, healthy people don't have that high risk of really developing severe symptoms from corona virus so their decision to engage in social distancing is really a way to protect vulnerable individuals in our community. So I did that thing we can do is just remember that either
Our choice to be alone is something that we're doing together and is something that we do in for each other. I have this conversation has given you some practical tips for fighting loneliness and feeling connected in this tough time talking to gmail over a video call, certainly made of rough day brighter for me, and so I'm super grateful that he took the time to connect we'll return for another special episode of the happiness that real soon because I want to bring you even more science back tips for getting through this worrying time I plan to talk with leading experts, as often as I can over the coming weeks and to share all their important evidence, backed advice with you I also want to be sure, were tackling all the big challenges your facing during this pandemic. So if there is a question or topic, you think the happiness needs to address in the coming weeks. Let me know tweet us at at lorry centres or at Pushkin, pods
and please include the hashtag happiness lab pot until then stay safe, the happiness lab will be back soon to having slab is made by me, Doctor Laurie. It its produced in Korean by Ryan Daily, our region. Music is by Zachary accuracy, we're Pushkin podcast, so special thing go to Jacob Iceberg meal about how vein highly migratory Julia Barton, underestimating. A strange thing happened to me in the library, while back I needed to pick up a few books, This was before the quarantine, a question was nagging me It had been nagging me for a long time who killed truth. This truth problem, it isn't just bad. Its deadly It's also way older than it might seem. This mystery its historical Jennifer and I'm a historian at Harvard and staff failure at the new Yorker has been a lot.
Time trying to solve mysteries like this one. So anyway? I was at the library at First everything seem normal hum, swiped my card. The elevator down to the basement, It puts volumes of the shelves and then. I saw it something I never seen before down here. At the end of the road Hidden in the shadows, green door, was a sign on the door tarnished breastplate, we barely make out the words it read the last Archive everybody, tv and radio confuse hello, right right, hello. How are you
no one's there, the voice from the past voices. Yeah We waited period. Prior. Woe heralded the discovery which assured and who want to ban time was granted in here he's lying before corona virus. A congressional debate about the government's role in developing a vaccine is there any other term forward firm, socialized, medicine, old horror movies therein, here too punch cards from the forgotten history of the National Data Center network, and it is referred to as being that work is now in operation in wreckers, records of bird songs, considered America's foremost songbird hermits rush, all these voices from the past sound, nobody is heard for decades.
Maybe somewhere in this vast last archive this corridor the mind, find what Looking for an answer, that question killed. Truth I decided to start a podcast. It's called the last archived hotel stories from hundred years, a history of America, arguments about truth and evidence. If you wanted I found Mimi back here I'll leave the door unlocked the last archived coming soon brought to you Pushkin industries,
Transcript generated on 2020-05-26.