With Mental Health Awareness coming up next week, combined with an ongoing demand for mental health workshops in business, I decided to write about human connection. After many thought provoking discussions it has made me realise how incredibly important it is to feel connected. Many studies and research show that as social animals, humans need each other. We need to feel supported, valued, and loved. Connecting with others is now proven by research to be good for our moods, and even our physical health.
Individuals who have good relationships are happier, healthier, and live longer than those who report feeling lonely and disconnected.
Sadly what I see is a growing trend of busyness and an associated “connection disconnection” with the growth of an increasingly digitally remote world. We are more connected to one another today than ever before, yet for many people they feel increasingly feeling more alone.
Human beings have inherently been social creatures. History has shown us that we survive and thrive through “togetherness” – social groups and gatherings. Modern communication and technology has now changed our interaction, and there is so much less meaningful personal contact. Today’s individualistic, digitally remote, and material driven culture is now challenging all of this. Now we find science is trying to make sense of how to unlock human connection and wellbeing in a digitally connected world.
When we add this to increasingly busy schedules and people working long hours — many feel that the only way that they can keep up and make social contact is online via social media — and the whole interpersonal communication and connection is lost.
Unfortunately, many of us have replaced our face-to-face connections with virtual ones. We rack up friends on Facebook, and Instagram, shop online and hide inside our houses with big fences and often pride ourselves on our independence and not needing anyone else. WRONG!
When I think of my own experiences, it’s amazing how connecting with someone, even briefly, can give me what I need to soldier on or lift my mood. A smile from a stranger on a walk along the beach, a brief hello and chat with a neighbour, coffee with a friend or colleague and long dinners with friends or weekends away with a group.
We often think of connecting with others as having heart-to-heart talks where we share our deepest thoughts and emotions and open up about difficult feelings or events in our lives. This is certainly connecting, and is important to do at times, but connections can also be as simple as outlined above.
So many of us withdraw from the people who support us at exactly the times we need them most. Adding the stress of bottled up emotions to already challenging times only leads to mental and physical health problems down the road.
I believe we all need to be more conscious of how often we genuinely connect, interact and share because this is a crucial element to building good mental wellbeing. In living our lives and pursuing our dreams, we need to recognise how important basic human connections are to our well-being. Only then, can we consciously work toward making these connections a part of enhancing our lives.
So, call your family, get back in touch with a friend, make a plan to have coffee with a work colleague, send a thank-you note to your friend. If you surround yourself with support, you can weather the bad times with less stress and add years to your life.
Overall, let us all make an effort not to take family and friends for granted. It’s so easy to say ” I ‘m too busy” and then create a lingering regret in the future that is difficult to live with.
Let’s enjoy while we still have time. It takes courage to accept that you create your life experience!