Reflect: Yesterday, we looked at the analogy of Jesus, as the Vine, and us, as the branches (disciples). Remember, healthy things grow. As a living branch that is attached to the vine, your life will be spiritually growing from the Vine. Jesus’ life is running through the veins of your life as a branch – He is the source of life. What are some of the outcomes of a living branch that is attached to the Vine? The fruit Jesus expects from the branches is first and foremost, love. Jesus said that He loves us as the Father loves Him (v. 9); to remain in His love (v.9); that if we remain in His love, we will obey His commands (v.10); we are to love each other as He has loved us (v.12); the greatest love is laying down one’s life for a friend (13); Jesus says that His command is that we love one another. Notice the love connection is not just with Jesus, but with others. We are to love each other. In loving each other, we need to be socially connected to one another, do things together (e.g., life groups, ministry, church, meals). Jesus is telling us all of this for our benefit. He wants our joy to be made full. A recent research review, published in Nature Neuroscience, suggests that social disconnection may be processed in the brain in the same way as the threat of physical harm. The brain responds to threat of a broken relationship or social disconnection by activating a basic ‘alarm system’.
This alarm system sets in motion a range of neurophysiological processes that are the same, whether the threat is physical and in the environment, or perceived and based on individual judgment of a threat to social connectedness. What happens when this alarm system is activated? The sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive, increasing inflammation, compromising the immune system and contributing to many diseases such as diabetes, aging and cancer.
On the other hand, how does social connectedness improve health? Research shows that being socially connected activates basic reward-related circuits that are also activated when learning to respond to beneficial environmental cues. Belonging and feeling cared for are critical to good health.