The Importance of Human Connection, and how this extrovert is dealing with lockdown.
Tony Robbins talks a lot about the 6 Human Needs, one of which is Connection, which I have to say is vital for me. People & connection are my jam. Given what’s happened in the world in 2020 and so far in 2021 it’s been something on my mind, a lot.
As I type this we are in week 2 of lock-down in Sydney and it’s just been extended for another week. Not a biggy I know. Most of the world has been in forced lock-downs for a lot longer than we have had to deal with in Australia, but this time it’s harder for me. Because of personal reasons my daughter is staying with her father, so it’s been me, Charlie the Chocolate Lab and Ariel the Ginger Cat.
As I said PEOPLE & CONNECTION are my jam.
I can’t go to other people’s houses, people can’t come here, it’s not like we can pop into a restaurant for a quick bite and those networking functions on my calendar – cancelled. I have found it really hard.
I’ve tried not to do what I do mostly when I faced with loneliness which is become an ‘aholic’ of some kind. Workaholic, exerciseaholic, champagneaholic, Netflixaholic – you get the picture. This time, I’ve really made an effort to be more balanced. Interestingly with my new ADHD medication, the working bit would be a lot easier to get ‘aholicing’ on!It’s not just us extroverts that need connection we all do. Aristotle once wrote, “Man is by nature a social animal” and he was right (about lots of things).
WHY DO WE NEED HUMAN CONNECTION?
Let’s go down the scientific road first……If we don’t have it, it can lead to worsening physical and mental health. Obesity, drug use, depression, higher blood pressure, bad sleep, the list goes on. To be blunt – loneliness can be a killer.
Flip it around and let’s look at the good stuff! Greater life satisfaction, lower stress levels, better habits, increased self esteem & confidence, longer life expectancy, decreased risk of suicide & better mental health in general. I also believe a good connection helps you to understand yourself in a way like no other.
“Human beings are wired to connect – and we have the most complex and interesting social behaviour out of all animals,” said Michael Platt, Ph. D., a biological anthropologist from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine is quoted as saying.
Authors Tom Rath and Jim Harris PhD say that a robust sense of well-being requires six hours a day of social interaction. That may seem like a scary number, but all you need to do is look at most developing children to see how much they thrive when introduced to the school day and their peers.
Neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman wrote in his book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect. “To the extent that we can characterize evolution as designing our modern brains, this is what our brains were wired for: reaching out to and interacting with others. These social adaptations are central to making us the most successful species on earth.” His research shows three different neural networks in our brain for social connection, and yes a Tylenol will help with a headache and a broken heart. These networks help us with reading others’ emotions, feeling social pleasure & pain and allow us to soak in values & beliefs that may help us connect.
Our bodies and brains are a series of connections – and our physical connectedness needs extend to our external world…..mmmmm
Some of the greatest parts of true human connection are feeling understood, seeing the truth of someone, the flow of energy between you and yes the silences that take up the space between you. Without connection there’s no empathy. One of the most wonderful things about being human. You need true connection to understand or sense the thoughts, feelings or emotions of another.
Let’s face it without connection we lose love, we lose sex, we lose careers, we lose a friendly neighbour dropping off a homemade pie (a true tragedy).
Did you know they can actually track changes in the brain when you hold hands with someone you care about? Yep. Connection.
Connection starts from birth (or before some would say). Ironically we are at first taken away from our mothers in most situations, to be handed back all clean so we can start that relationship with our primary caregiver. If we have healthy connections in childhood, we are more likely to achieve & sustain good relationships later in life.
Connection has always been important. If you were CaveWoman Jane you had a much better chance of survival if you were connected to CaveMan Joe.
Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs shows Love & Belonging smack bang in the middle, being the next most important thing after our basic needs of safety and physiological needs. He places it before our esteem and self-actualisation needs, and I’m not going to argue with Maslow….but, I kinda think you need to have some of the self-fulfilment needs worked out to achieve true connection with others.
Maybe it’s a chicken or egg thing, however ask yourself – do you actually feel connected to yourself? I believe it’s a big step to being able to create meaningful connections with others. In and out of a pandemic. Stop Samantha, that’s a massive topic, do not try to cover it today.
SO HOW DO WE REMAIN CONNECTED IN AN INCREASINGLY DISCONNECTED WORLD?
Easy, we take action. The actions that we take build the momentum needed to nurture and increase a connection. It’s like any goal we are trying to achieve – consistent steps will get you there. Action doesn’t have to be massive. It can be as simple as a quick text to check in with someone, a coffee catch up, get old fashioned and write a letter or arrange Wednesday night cocktails on Zoom with old friends (yep about to jump on one).
If you feel like you need to find more connections, rather than nurture, you could try reaching out to neighbours, taking up a new hobby, exercise classes, learning a language – taking on the social committee at school!When you’re feeling disconnected, even striking up a random conversation in the supermarket or online can help somewhat. It may never be a long connection, but in that moment you may have received the connection you needed, and in turn filled another’s cup.
Ironically social media can be a disconnector and a connector. You can re-find friendships from many moons ago on the positive side, and on the negative side you can feel more & more removed as you watch other people’s fabulousness. Research really does show it going both ways and I would agree. I find the most helpful thing is to avoid social media when feeling really disconnected as some posts can sting, and to take the time when feeling better to actively engage with positive conversation, truly listening to people on there. Yes, you can be an active listener online, it’s not just for those late night couch conversations.
Importantly, if you are feeling really disconnected or lonely, reach out. To someone. A friend, lover, workmate, health professional – someone. Loneliness is one of the simplest things for us to resolve, because if you have a heart and aren’t a complete narcissist chances are you have felt it at some stage, and you would want to help someone in the same position.
I’ll end with this quote I love from Brene Brown “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”