The most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves. A better understanding of our own thoughts, feelings, and purpose is crucial to living a fulfilling and happy life. We also thrive through friendships, familial bonds, healthy relationships with co-workers, or simply joining with others in a communal setting. But what happens when we lose those connections and more importantly, our connection with ourselves? What are we left with?
By working with TakeCare, a national initiative that offers tools to help people improve their own health and well-being through messages embedded in inspirational short films, I had the opportunity to meet Jack, a young man in high school struggling with several significant life challenges. Jack had experienced suicidal thoughts since the age of 10 and was struggling to come to terms with losing his mother, being gay, and with being alienated from his newly remarried father. His story is told through the short film, “Hope Springs.”
Jack’s story is not only about loss, isolation, and grief, it’s also about the beauty that can be unearthed within ourselves. For Jack, it was the simple act of gardening and connection with the plants that sparked a new sense of purpose for him. He found that when he was caring for the plants around him, he also found a way to nurture his own spirit and he was able to see that he was worthy of love and care as well. When he realizes this, he sees himself in a new light. He finds joy in life again and is able to open up to others.
Connecting Through Activities
“I was trying to escape,” Jack says in the film. “I had to find a way to cope with my emotions. I just never developed those skills when I was younger.” We see Jack explore various mental health treatment options until he finds a new outlet to channel his thoughts and energy: building a garden. This breakthrough helps him find a new purpose in life and along the way, he is able to reconnect with his father on a shared project. As a result, he built a healthy bond with his new stepfamily.
I believe that connection flows from attunement, when two or more people become attuned to the same priority at the same time. For Jack, it was gardening, and for others it could be a wide variety of activities: exercising together, playing or listening to music together, volunteering together, taking a road trip, or simply sharing a meal. The activity itself is secondary. It’s the simple act of collaborating on that shared activity that creates space for connection.
Shared Experiences Can Be Healing
Everyone feels lonely from time to time, just like everyone feels hungry or thirsty or fatigued. All those experiences are nature’s way of alerting us that we need to tend to our needs. Those emotional reminders help us realize that feeling lonely is normal, and that others around us may be feeling the same way.
The film shows Jack sharing his healing journey by speaking to a classroom of his peers, whose faces reflect their recognition and appreciation of his struggle. Many people are feeling lonely, grief-stricken, or hopeless, so knowing that others are going through the same thing can be comforting. In speaking his truth, Jack was not only able to help others, but was able to feel that sense of comfort by connecting.
Discovering meaningful activities to build positive thinking are wonderful avenues available to anyone.