Maybe you feel deflated by all the unsuccessful dates you’ve been on or maybe you’ve had friendships end recently or maybe you just don’t feel fully supported by your partner right now. Well, one thing you can do to help yourself is, mindfulness.
New research by Martelli et al. (2018) using functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) suggests that those who practise mindfulness are more resilient to the distress of rejection and the reason is that the brain works differently when experiencing rejection when we regularly practise mindfulness. The left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex is activated less, a brain region that becomes active when the brain needs to inhibit negative emotions. Plus, mindfulness also correlated with less connectivity between the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and the bilateral amygdala and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, which play a significant role in the generation of social distress. It’s as though mindfulness buffers us from the pain of social distress, resulting in the brain needing to do less work afterwards to cope with rejection.
Mindfulness has been linked to a number of health benefits, a lot of which seems to stem from an improved ability to regulate our emotions. After all, when we are not being mindful, we can be subjecting our brain to a lot of negative information to process and this can, over time, change the way the brain functions. When we practise mindfulness we spend less time thinking negative thoughts, more time being present and calm and, it seems, we become better able to manage our emotions minute-to-minute.
Given we now live in a world where we come into contact with many more people every day through things like social media, we more frequently subject ourselves to the risk of ‘rejection’ and how you interpret rejection will impact your future motivation and behaviours.
For example, I know from working with dating coaching clients that dating in the modern world, particularly when using mediums such as online dating, can be exhausting and deflating. This is because it is easier to ‘meet’ lots of potential mates but the quality of those interpersonal interactions is lower when online and so when people ‘reject’ you over and over again based on very little information about you, it can be a tough pill to have to keep swallowing day-to-day. Plus, with men and women feeling they have so many alternative options now, there is sadly a tendency for more of that ‘looking over your shoulder for a better option that might come along’, making rejection all the more rife. Plus, with so much acquainting taking place online and so many more options to choose from, it seems singletons have become less invested in each date because now, rather than those dates being like gold dust where you’ve invested so much time and effort into each one, that level of emotional and time commitment isn’t in the dating equation anymore.
Mindfulness may be the thing you need to practise daily to help you to brave the choppy waters of dating.
Equally, if you spend a lot of time online with your ‘Facebook friends’ and have tendency to eave the flood gate open to anyone and everyone who sends you a friend request or connects with you on some other social network, then you are increasing your chances of being rejected, daily. That rejection can be someone you think is a friend rarely showing up to support you online when you notice other loved ones do. That rejection can be felt when people attack something you post online. That feeling of rejection can also come when you follow someone on social media or send them a friend request and they don’t reciprocate…even though they could have perfectly understandable reasons for not doing so that have nothing to do with wanting to reject you personally.
In the first instance, surround yourself with good people; it’s vital for your resilience, your mental and physical health, and your well-being and longevity. Secondly, practise mindfulness so that you buffer yourself from the negative effects of rejection or ‘rejection’ by others. Imagine how much easier your dating journey, your friendships and your romantic relationships will be when you take things less personally and keep moving towards your goals, whatever area they may be in.
Alexandra M Martelli, David S Chester, Kirk Warren Brown, Naomi I Eisenberger, C Nathan DeWall; When less is more: mindfulness predicts adaptive affective responding to rejection via reduced prefrontal recruitment, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Volume 13, Issue 6, 1 June 2018, Pages 648–655.