Most of us spend the majority of our time at work where it can be a source of purpose and inspiration. Yet, for many work can be the place at which they are the most stressed and least happy. In fact, work is often considered a ruthless cut-throat environment with little if any compassion.

In prior posts, I have commented on the epidemic of loneliness, isolation, and depression felt by many in our modern and ever more technologically sophisticated society. The effects of this epidemic are now being felt in the business community and affecting the bottom line in a significant way. Can you imagine that it is estimated that $2-300B… yes, billions of dollars are lost as a result of this reality.

A great part of the problem is the fact that humans have not yet evolved to live in this constantly changing, technologically sophisticated world. Our DNA has not significantly changed in over 200,000 years. In contrast, cities have only existed for 5,000 years and it was only 10,000 years ago that the primary survival strategy of our species was as hunter-gatherers in groups of 10-50. What does this mean? Initially within these nuclear family units and small groups, nurture and care were absolute requirements for survival. Further, when presented with a threat, the primitive part of the brain, the amygdala, responded with the flight or fight mechanism releasing hormones that were advantageous in such situations. Unfortunately in modern society due to the constant bombardment of information and the recurrence of situations that lead to uncertainty, this mechanism has been hijacked. This has resulted in individuals whose brains process these situations as threats leading to a release of hormones that are deleterious long term. In other words, the results are stress and fear. Don’t get me wrong, stress and fear are important parts of our lives and, in the right amounts, enhance our survival, function, and growth.

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James R. Doty, MD

Director and Founder at CCARE
Dr. Doty is a CCARE Clinical Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at Stanford University, as well as an inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist. As founder of CCARE, Dr. Doty works with both the Stanford Institute for Neuro-Innovation and Translational Neurosciences and a variety of scientists from a number of disciplines examining the neural bases for compassion and altruism.

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