Physical closeness isn’t necessary for us to have a profound effect on one another’s biology, for good or ill
Last week, my whole outlook on the world was transformed by a sheet of blank paper. Not just any paper, but beautifully embossed stationery, silky to the touch and decadent to write on. It was a gift from a dear friend and colleague. We collaborate over Zoom every week, so I could have thanked him on video, but instead I wrote a short note of gratitude and love, and posted it to him. His delight on receipt a few days later mirrored my own, and we shared a moment of emotional connection.
Before that moment, I was immersed in yet another “Blursday” full of Covid-saturated, this-will-never-end moroseness, staring alone at a screen that makes my skin look pallid. Afterwards, to my surprise, I was alight in a sprawling web of human connections. But I shouldn’t have been surprised: I am a neuroscientist who studies how the brain creates your mood. In fact, if you understand a bit about your brain’s inner workings, it may help you to cultivate comfort from those around you, whether physically or in spirit, in difficult times.
Lisa Feldman Barrett is a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, Massachusetts, and author of Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain