The Benefits of Connection to Others

Did you ever get the comment “talks too much” on your report card in elementary school? Me too!

After a scolding by your parents about staying quiet in class and paying more attention to the teacher than your classmates, did you follow through? I don’t know about you, but try as I might, I think I still received that note on many subsequent report cards. Oh well.

As humans, we have been taught and conditioned to be independent beings, to do things on our own. From childhood, we learn to do things ourselves. As adults, we want to feel capable and for others to believe we have it all together.

But is learning and managing things all on our own really how we are wired? More and more research is showing that we are actually more social than our parents or teachers led us to believe. Maybe that “talks too much” comment was just a glimpse into our true nature…

When we try to do everything on our own, we naturally feel disconnected, as if we’re on an island all by ourselves. It can feel lonely.

In reality, our happiness and longevity depend on our connection to others. People need a sense of community and belonging, even though they may not always realize it.

The key is to connect with a few people frequently enough that you know about each other’s lives and can offer to listen and provide moral support. This connection can be achieved in a variety of ways and it doesn’t even have to be a large group.

These check-ins don’t have to be in person and can occur in other ways too, such as by phone, Zoom, video chat, or even as pen pals.

So why does connecting to others work?

“Being socially connected is our brain’s lifelong passion,” says Matthew Lieberman, a professor of psychology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science and a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral science at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. “It’s been baked into our operating system for tens of millions of years.”

Think of how we learned to walk by holding our parent’s hands. Or to talk by mimicking those around us. Or to read by listening to others read to us. Babies and young children have been doing this forever. We didn’t learn to do these fundamental things by ourselves.

And because we are wired for connection, our brains process social and emotional pain in the same way as physical pain. Feeling left out or ignored can hurt as much or more than a physical ailment or injury to the body. It also has an impact on our mental well-being and can in some cases even manifest physical symptoms.

How can we make our connections stronger?

Many people already have strong connections within their communities. Organizations like churches and schools can provide a natural way for individuals to meet and connect.

If you are not involved in any of these types of communities, it may take a little more effort for you to meet new friends. But thanks to social media and the internet, we have a multitude of ways at our disposal to find those with whom we share common interests.

Here are a few ways you can find and build new connections in your own community.

  1. Volunteer to help a cause you believe in, such as a food pantry, women’s or homeless shelter, or a larger organization where you can be of service.
  2. Take a course in person or online on a topic you’re interested in.
  3. Look for community groups where you can get involved. Ask those you know who seem well connected for advice.
  4. Start a side hustle to explore a hobby you enjoy as a business.

The most important thing to remember in building your connections is to be open to meeting new people and exploring new interests. This is how your network will grow. Even introverts can do this with a little concerted effort. And it will really pay off in the end.

After 2 years of the pandemic, many of us are feeling rusty, out of practice, and maybe a little intimidated or less than motivated to re-engage with people. But we must begin to step out into the world again. And once you do it will feel so good!

How are you maintaining, re-establishing, or building connections again? Your ideas may inspire someone else.

If you’d like to talk more about shifting from surviving to thriving, schedule a call below, and let’s talk. I hope to hear from you soon!

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