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.”
- 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!