We all have the desire to be seen, heard, and valued, we strive for human and social connection. When we have an interaction with someone else that ends badly with a snub or a cruel word, the feelings of rejection can be as real as physical pain. This is why we use phrases like, “he broke my heart.” It has been said that our need to connect is as basic as our need for food or water. Nurturing relationships and maintaining social networks of friends and family is more important than you would think for your own mental health.
We have an innate desire to connect with other people. Dr. Vivek Murthy, the 19th Surgeon General of the United States says that loneliness is a public health concern: a root cause and contributor to many of the epidemics sweeping the world today from alcohol and drug addiction to violence to depression and anxiety. He argues that loneliness is impacting our health, how our children experience school, how we perform in the workplace, and the sense of division and polarization in our society.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested
in other people than you can in two years by trying
to get other people interested in you.”
–Dale Carnegie author of How to Win Friends and Influence People.
When we meet someone and connect on a deep level, there are parts of our brain that light up. I like to call these interactions “soul filling.” They are the times when you walk away with a warm feeling and realize that you and the other person were connected in a real way. When we share a genuine interaction with someone, our brain releases oxytocin- the feel good hormone.
Feeling connected with others isn’t always found in the places where we look the most though. Most of us spend a lot of time scrolling through social media in order to feel connected, but we can actually end up with the opposite feeling. Social media contributes to our feelings of loneliness, comparison, and judgement. We need to be aware of how we experience our online interactions. Social media may give you the instant gratification of connection but it does not fully fulfill you with true social connection.
To feel genuinely connected to others, we need to put ourselves out there. When you do something new, it can feel scary, but it can lead to refreshing interactions with others. For example- joining a book club, attending a class or workshop, attending a networking event, or a variety of other event settings can lead us into social connection. All you have to do is put yourself out there, put yourself aside and truly listen to what others have to say.
In order to create more social connection in your life, identify areas of interest for you.
Is there a topic you have always wanted to learn about? Sign up for a class. Is there a hobby that you want to develop? Join a group that already engages in this hobby. Want to feel better? Go to a workshop, a therapist, a coach, or find a group with like minded people. If there isn’t a group that fits your needs, create your own. Your brain will light up and thank you.