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We are living through an incredibly divisive time on social media this year.
Whether it was information regarding COVID, and now the protests in cities and towns all over the world, tempers are high on social media.
I wanted to write today about one simple tool to help control any feelings of rejection you may be experiencing:
Pay attention to your heartbeat.
Here's my first question: can you track your heartbeat without feeling your pulse? If you can, you might be better prepared to cope with being excluded in social situations.
If you can't, then try this: the next time you get feeling upset, go ahead and take your pulse by putting two fingers on the side of your neck, directly beneath your ear. Take deep breaths and listen to them, then notice what your heart rate does as you breathe.
That ability to focus inward and recognize your heartbeat is one way to measure what scientists call “interoceptive sensitivity,” or awareness of stimuli inside the body. A 2015 study suggests people with heightened interoceptive sensitivity are less hurt by social rejection than people with low interoceptive sensitivity.
In the study, researchers created situations of social exclusion or inclusion by asking participants to play a game of “Cyberball,” where they passed a virtual ball back and forth with two other players via computer. As the game progressed, in the exclusion situations, the other two players began leaving the study participant out of the game.
As expected, the players who were excluded felt bad, as measured by a few rubrics after the game. But the players who had previously demonstrated better accuracy in detecting their heartbeat felt less bad.
Individuals with higher interoceptive sensitivity are better at regulating emotions, it seems. They can respond more effectively to their body’s nervous reaction to being left out.
Regardless of what your natural abilities are, learning strategies to better regulate emotion can lessen negative feelings for you every day. It is possible to change the way you think, and a mental health professional can help you with that.
To read more about the study, click here.