“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world” — John Muir
Connection and belonging are basic human needs, because we are connected to everything on a physical level – our survival is dependent on it.
Modern science has also studied the positive effects of social connection to help us live healthier lives. It has even been suggested that the stressor of loneliness can have adverse effects on our health and longevity. The tricky part is, when we are feeling low or anxious, it often feels difficult to reach out for social connection; even though it can help us feel better.
Connection comes in many forms – we can connect with ourselves, others, nature, and beyond. Here are some tips for finding connection through small actions in our daily lives to feel its power and to enjoy the benefits.
Connecting with yourself: Improving your self-talk
We can implement a practice of mindfulness to pay attention to how we treat ourselves from the inside out – starting with our thoughts and inner voice.
Take a moment to reflect: Can you recall a time when a friend came to you with a problem they had? What did you say to them when they were having a difficult time, and how did you help them feel heard and understood?
Now think about how you speak to yourself during a life challenge. (We often speak to ourselves with more criticism than we would ever impose on someone else!) The way we speak with ourselves through difficult times can help us to feel supported. Using positive growth messages such as “This feels really hard right now, but I can get through this,” “I know I am trying my best,” or “It’s ok to make mistakes, that is how we learn” can create a feeling of more self-acceptance and self connection.
Next time you are feeling stressed, pause to notice and welcome your thoughts and feelings. Then, try giving yourself the similar words of comfort and understanding that you would offer a close friend if they were in your situation. You do not need to have a solution – you just need to show up for yourself with kindness. Or, you may just pause during the day to give yourself a compliment for something you appreciate about yourself!
Connecting with others: Leaning into “the sharing effect”
Sharing emotional experiences helps us build on feelings of connection. This has been coined “the sharing effect,” which provides an explanation for people so often wanting to gather to celebrate the positives and to grieve together during the difficult times.
When we are working toward supporting a larger cause or even helping someone in a simple way, like opening a door for them, we boost our feeling of connection. Volunteering or engaging in acts of service helps us step outside of ourselves and connect with something bigger.
Reach out to a loved one this week or plan to volunteer at an organization you care about.
If you are not able to connect with anyone at the moment, you can practice sending positive messages to others in your thoughts. Sending well wishes to others is a powerful way to stay connected.
Connecting with nature: Feeling awestruck
What are your favorite ways to enjoy nature? Maybe it is listening to the sound of rain, taking a short walk in the park, or feeling the breeze on a warm day.
Nature awakens a feeling of harmony within us. Taking in the beauty around us with our physical senses can be a powerful act of finding emotional balance. Various studies suggest a beneficial impact of nature on our physical, mental and emotional health by calming the nervous system. From a more calm physical state, we may feel more open, creative and resilient.
Wherever you are, look up at the clouds and notice their unique shapes today. If there are no clouds, marvel at the blue sky.
Moving forward with a lens of connection
Connection is all around us if you take the time to look. It is a practice that we can all continue to work on and build upon, but it is one of the most important parts of being human. Which one of these actions do you plan to take in the next few weeks to help build connection in your life?