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!

Create Positive Workplace Culture

Culture is Co-Created!

What is a Positive Workplace Culture? How is it created? What are the key elements?

Organizational Culture…is an expression of the values, beliefs and assumptions of its members, and is manifested in behavior.

You know that you can ‘see’ and ‘feel’ an organization’s culture as soon as you enter the doorway. It is, literally, written all over the faces of the people who are a part of that organization.

Culture does not ‘just happen’…it is not dictated by leadership. Organizational Culture is always co-created. When you review the list that follows, ask yourself; ‘How many of these positive elements am I contributing?

We’ll use the word POSITIVE as an acronym to recall the key elements, and explore a few ideas about what you can do to contribute to that element:

P – Present

Do you fly into work, head filled with to-do lists and with frustration at the traffic you just left behind?

Take one minute, at the beginning of your day, to ‘arrive’. Close your eyes, focus on your breath, and remind yourself why you are there.

O – Optimistic

What do you say to yourself when adversity strikes? Do you look at obstacles as temporary glitches that you can work to overcome (Optimists)? Or, do you view challenges as permanent and pervasive – as just the way it goes in your life (Pessimists)?

Practice changing the dialogue you allow to take up space in your mind. Choose to look at adversity as an isolated incident that you can overcome. You’ll immediately be in a better space to work your way through it.

S – Shared

As we stated above, Culture is co-created. You are part of an ecosystem – at work, at home, in your community. So ask yourself; ‘What am I contributing?‘. Is my contribution helping or hurting this Culture? Sometimes the answers to those questions come from other people. Be open to hearing how others view you – you’ll learn a lot, about yourself and about your colleagues.

I – Intentional

Think about, and then answer these questions for yourself … ‘Who Are You and What Do You Want?

Then, share those answers with important people around you.

T – Thank-full

Of all of the research on happiness and positivity, the #1 strategy is gratitude. Practice gratitude each day, letting other people know what you appreciate about them.

I – Inspired

In addition to answering the two questions above – Who Are You and What Do You Want…also answer this question ‘Why Are You Here?‘ Why are you in this organization, why are you in this profession, why are you on this earth? If you want to know where your inspiration is, answering that question will bring you much closer to it!

V- Vulnerable

When you mess up, own it, learn from it, and share the story. In order for your Culture to be optimally positive and healthy, mistakes must be transparent and viewed as a learning opportunity. Additionally, all members must feel comfortable sharing personal struggles, such as a mental health challenge. Not so that we can all become mired in the sadness; but so that we can help each other move through and past the challenge.

E – Energized

Eat well. Exercise. Sleep. These are staples to an energized human. Beyond those basics and everything listed above, an energized human is one who has well-developed social relationships at work. Come together and remind yourself that you are, indeed, all in this together!

So, here is another question for you; ‘What Will You Do?‘. What actions will you take to positively impact yourself and your Organizational Culture?

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!