You’ve Got A Friend In Me: Social Connection and Mental Well-Being

It is difficult to know where to start on this topic….or to end. Social Connection is central to your mental health, to your level of happiness, and to your very survival! Period.

One of my many valued book purchases from a few years ago, was renowned psychologist Matthew Lieberman‘s  Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Connect. The book ” explores groundbreaking research in social neuroscience revealing that our need to connect with other people is even more fundamental, more basic, than our need for food or shelter.  Because of this, our brain uses its spare time to learn about the social world – other people and our relation to them. It is believed that we must commit 10,000 hours to master a skill.  According to Lieberman, each of us has spent 10,000 hours learning to make sense of people and groups by the time we are ten.”

I just returned from a trip to Mexico with 6 friends. The entire experience was an living example of what happens in your brain and your body when you are connecting.

First, as a group, we did almost nothing but laugh! (If you are not already aware, search for the benefits of laughter and you will be inundated with references, including this one from Harvard’s Neuroscience Institute.) Laughter changes you (your skin tone glistens, your eyes brighten, your posture becomes more fluid), and it affects the people around you! We met so many special people who were staying at the same resort – some of whom I am still in contact with. I believe we met because of the wonderful energy I was carrying around from the interactions I was having with my group of friends.

Second, we had many opportunities for what my brother, Devin, calls “D&M’s” (deep and meaningful conversations). I have known most of these women for over 30 years, and I still learned something new about them on this trip. I was reminded of how much we have been through together (marriages, raising families, deaths, health scares, etc.) and I know that my life is all the better for having them in it. We’ve been there for the ups and downs, we’ve seen each other at our best and our worst, and we still care about and value each other.

Since I returned from the trip, I have reflected on how any relationship – from your marriage or partnership, to your co-workers, team mates, and even your children – all rest on the foundation of friendship. GoodTherapy.org defines Friendship as “a close association between two people marked by feelings of care, respect, admiration, concern, or even love.” They go on to outline some “common traits of friendship:

    • Some degree of commitment, both to the friendship and to the other person’s well-being.
    • A desire for “regular” contact with the other person. “Regular” contact could occur once every two days or once every two years.
    • Mutual trust, concern, and compassion.
    • Shared interests, opinions, beliefs, or hobbies.
    • Shared knowledge about one another’s lives, emotions, fears, or interests.
    • Feelings of love, respect, admiration, or appreciation.”
As I write this today, I am thinking of all of the other people I am so fortunate to call friends:
    • a beautiful human who was in a course I taught at UofW many years ago, and is now one of my dearest friends (we refer to each other as ‘healing sisters’…and we are…),
    • the participants in my mastermind groups – from my professional association and also from my local entrepreneurial community – who started off as a ‘business/professional’ group and quickly became so much more,
    • a co-worker from over 30 years ago, who I meet with every three months with regularity…
    • the people pictured above who are early-bird worker-outers like me…we get together a couple of times a year outside of the gym to add to our every day moments of connection as we sweat,
    • and so many more.

As I do with the ‘group of 7’ described above …. with my husband, children, and other family members …. I definitely commit to having regular contact with all of my friends. I trust, care about, have compassion for, and love each and every one of them. They nurture me, as I hope I do them.

I hope you also choose to commit to ongoing friendships! Sometimes, it might you who initiates most of the get-togethers and I know that can be frustrating. Remind yourself that each of those times of connection are an installment in your well-being bank and you (mind, body and soul) will reap the benefits for years to come!

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker, Author, and Organizational consultant, Deri works with organizations who want to create happy and healthy workplaces for increased positivity, productivity and prosperity!

Mental Health in the Workplace: Be Compassionately Curious With Yourself and Others

I had the honor of experiencing Dr. Gabor Mate for two days in a workshop on Compassionate Inquiry. I was riveted the entire time. This post features just a wee snippet of the opportunity we all have to increase our compassion for ourselves and for others.

Dr. Mate describes how we are all traumatized. He goes on to say that the essence of the trauma is not what happened to you, it is what happened inside of you as a result of what happened to you. If you were neglected as a child, the neglect is what happened to you, and the trauma is what happened inside of you as a result of that neglect (developing a belief that you are not worthy of love and being cared for, for example).

Part of his teaching was about how to treat yourself when you are triggered. Instead of trying to ‘fix’ that part of yourself that was triggered (i.e. when your childhood belief about your unworthiness appears in your adult relationships), you can be curious about what ‘combustible material’ inside of you was triggered. And this part is very important: when you are curious, you are not judging yourself – you are only seeking to understand that mechanism that resides inside of you. And to make friends with it.

“You are never upset about what you are upset about – it is always a trigger that goes way back. They are not new emotions.” says Mate.

Check out his Youtube video below, in which he explains the root of how we develop these mechanisms inside of us – and how we can develop a new relationship with them – one that is more compassionately curious.

One study Dr. Mate shared with us really stuck with me. It was a study in which mice were exposed to a certain smell and then simultaneously were given a shock. The mice began to associate the smell and the pain of the shock. After awhile, just the smell would bring pain to the mice – they became conditioned to associate the two. This part of the study makes sense – you have likely heard about other studies just like this one.

What was really interesting about this study is the next part … the grandchildren of these mice shudder at the smell – and they were never shocked! This conditioning was passed on through the generations. It is done epigenetically;  how the genes function are changed and then passed down through generations. The grand-mice are manifesting the experience of their ancestors – and, likewise, so do you.

When you are curious about the source of your experience, it will enhance your compassion – towards yourself and towards others. And when you are more compassionate and understanding of your internal mechanisms, you can begin to change your relationship with them (and interrupt the ‘auto’ response of the trigger). You, then, are able to make different choices when triggered – you can choose a different path, and have the opportunity to affect the future gene pool along the way!

Stay tuned for more in future posts…and check out more from Dr. Mate on Youtube.

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker, Author, and Organizational consultant, Deri works with organizations who want to create happy and healthy workplaces for increased positivity, productivity and prosperity!

 

The Joy of Slow: Take Time to Tune In and Turn On

My friend, Jennifer, told me about a fantastic App called Insight Timer. I’ve been using it over the last few weeks. It’s filled with hundreds of meditations to choose from, and you get to see yourself amid a world-wide community of meditators. It is very cool! And, it’s free!

One meditation I tried last night reminded me again about the simplicity – and the power – of a meditative practice. It is called ‘How to Fall Asleep Mindfully’ and is a short (6:48) guided experience led by Sean Fargo. Sean’s voice is soothing and relaxing, and he begins by reminding listeners of the noise – the busy-ness – in our minds. That noise can negatively impact sleep (we have all had the experience of lying restlessly being nagged by thoughts of the day gone by or worries about the day ahead) as much as it negatively impacts wakefulness!

Sean guides listeners to tune into their bodies; one ‘part’ at a time. I was only at my knees and I could already notice a shift (we started, by the way, at our feet)!

The simplicity of meditation is in being able to change your state by changing your focus. Mindfully choosing to tune into our bodies helps us to tune out of our busy minds. This simple process induces relaxation and ‘sleepiness’. While I have selected sleep meditations before, I like this one because it taught me how to fall asleep mindfully when I don’t have my headphones in my ears and my Insight Timer turned on. I can learn to slow myself down and fall asleep easily. Every year I get older, I am more grateful for the gift of a good night’s sleep!

I awoke this morning feeling energized and awake! This is where the power of a meditation practice is realized. When I arise energized and awake, I am better able to navigate my day; I begin with more joy in my heart, I proceed with more spring in my step, I make better (more mindful) decisions, and I am more equipped to deal with frustrations and irritations that inevitably come along.

In this world of ‘hurry’, you can choose to pause on purpose…either at the end of your day to fall asleep, at the beginning of your day to awaken positively, or any time throughout your day to engage energetically. And then, just notice what you notice….

I know you will find as I do….there is real joy in ‘slow’. What do you think?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker, Author, and Organizational consultant, Deri works with organizations who want to create happy and healthy workplaces for increased positivity, productivity and prosperity!