It’s pretty clear that eating a healthy diet, exercising, taking good supplements, sleeping deep, meditating, and having balanced hormones are all factors vital for sustaining your brilliant self, long-term. But, another powerful strategy for maintaining your optimal health—and the one that is perhaps the most ignored—is by nourishing one’s connectedness and plugging in socially. However, in this new, digital world we live in, doing this is deceptively difficult.
Thirty years ago, when we were significantly less disconnected socially and connected technically, many people relied on “meeting up.” Talking in person over lunch, drinks, coffee, or on the phone. We didn’t substitute an email for a “face to face” meeting. We didn’t typically have 100+ friends on a website where we posted three–to-four vapid sentences about what we are doing that moment, (curse you Zuckerberg!) We typically either kept that to ourselves (as it probably should be), or saved it for when we got together in person with friends. Let’s face it: We are sifting through a LOT of communication and information from thousands of people every day. Humans are social beings, we’re simply built that way, and we actually do live and survive through our social connections. That’s why it’s important to make sure those connections are real and meaningful, not just words on a screen. The wonderful power of social behavior, or “meeting up,” can give us energy, heal many of our hurts, help to identify our weaknesses, bring out the best in us, and ultimately give us purpose.
Researchers at Brigham Young University looked at 148 studies on social interactions. They concluded that those who had planned regular social interactions— including with family, friends, and colleagues— improved their long-term odds of survival by more than 50%. Surprisingly, those in the study who had very limited or no social connectedness had a comparable heath status to someone who was smoking 15 cigarettes per day, an alcoholic, not exercising, or suffering from obesity.
And it’s not just our physical health that benefits from having friends. Researcher Kenneth Kendler noted that social support through physical engagements with others reduced depression significantly in men and women. Other research has shown that social connectedness supports the very delicate stress response in the brain, providing significantly more controlled cortisol (stress hormone) production, which helps with anxiety, mood swings, glucose regulation, and sleep – all which ultimately affects our moods greatly. So let’s stop hurting ourselves and start having a little fun! Keep reading for some quick tips that will help you make a face-to-face connection this week!
The Over-Packed Schedule: No Time for Social Connections
Bottom line: Life’s too short to waste in an endless mire of low-level anxiety that comes from being overworked, it really doesn’t get us where we want to be. It is a shame we have to grow up, because so many of the things we did as kids were so correct. As children, we were not overshadowed by worries, money problems, responsibilities, and the constant issue of overthinking everything. Having fun was just instinctual! Stomping in puddles, lying around laughing, playing in the pool, riding bikes, and forming intense, connected friendships. We seem to lose this carefree attitude as we age, replacing it with deadlines, over-committed schedules, stress induced paralysis, and exhaustion to the point that we start saying NO to everything fun.
And the irony is, our demands—some material, others out of our control—hold us captive to a happiness that is forever elusive. Instead, in our endless quest, we become governed by feelings of exhaustion and inadequacy. We need to reclaim that sense of impulsive pleasure that went hand-in-hand with childhood.
Life is full of moments of beauty, kindness and triumph that we usually fail to notice because we’re so wrapped up in our own concerns. Today most women hear from society or repeat in their minds the messages; ‘think big,’ ‘go for more,’ ‘climb the ladder of success.’ But, if you are trying to do this without the help and support of others close to you, it will be an unpleasant and lonely grind.
Here are some tips for improving social connectivity:
1. Don’t use the Internet as your ONLY social support. This superficial connection is often not deep enough to really help someone feel “heard”, confirmed, supported, or energized. You need to have other social connections too, and should make it a priority to meet with people face-to-face. If you have no friends or family to confide in– find someone and be the best friend you can be for them. Give it time to grow and make sure you are giving of yourself to the relationship to help it mature.
2. Visit or call to meet a neighbor, co-worker, or relative that you do not typically spend much time with. Most people have met someone they would like to get to know more and feel that they can relate to. Now is your time. Make it a point to call them.
3. Engage in a group sports activity or just go on a walk with someone. Not only are walking and sports activities great for you physically, they also are a wonderful way to break the ice, loosen you up, and connect to other people with something in common to talk about initially.
4. Go on a DATE! This could be with your partner, or you can go on a double date with another couple. It could also be a new date with someone you’ve been wanting to get to know. It could be anyone that you feel would enhance your connections.
5. Socialize as a family. While this may seem like a thing of the past due to our hectic world today, families that take time out to meet with other families socially encouraged connectedness and family bonding. Give it a try some time! Have someone over for dinner and games!
6. Get out from behind your TV or computer screen. Real relationships are largely nonverbal. You have to be face to face to really communicate well and connect.
7. Volunteer. Do something that helps others and has a beneficial effect on how you feel about yourself!
8. Be a “joiner.” Find groups that will help open you up to common interests and potential friends.
9. Write to a family member. Tell them how much you appreciate them!
10.Call a friend. Don’t email them, call them! Ultimately this is about being in your friends’ lives. Just show up for those that you love!
11.Recognize the moments that worked. Each day, pay attention to at least one or two moments that worked out well for you and allowed you to move through your day easier. This will really help you stay on a positive track.
12.Put down your work and call it a day. Enough said.
13.Load up on funny friends. Intentionally find two or three funny friends who will for sure make you laugh from your belly.
14.Host a potluck dinner party. You have to have dinner anyway, so why not invite some friends over? With everyone bringing a dish, it won’t cost much, and it’s a great opportunity to connect with friends. Talk about a win-win!
15.Invite your favorite people over for a comedy movie night. There is no better stress reliever than laughter, and laughing with your BFFs makes it even better!
16.Reconnect with nature. A little sunlight, listening to the sounds of nature, breathing in the fresh air, and feeling the wind on your face are great, cost-free and immediate ways to reduce stress that most people don’t often think to do.
17.Find humor in your life. Instead of complaining about life’s frustrations, try to laugh about them. This may be difficult at first, but if something is so frustrating or depressing that it’s ridiculous, realize that you could look back on it and laugh. It is likely you will find yourself being more lighthearted and silly with this approach to your problems (something we all could use more of.)
Surround Yourself with Others Who Laugh
Laughter is one of those precious commodities that is overlooked and also not as prevalent anymore.
With the tech age upon us and the seriousness of our stress, lifestyle, business, we often fail to take the time to even see the humor right in front of us.
Laughter connects us with others. It’s as simple as that. Just as with smiling and kindness (or even yawning), most people find that laughter is irresistibly contagious. So, if you bring more laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you to laugh more and realize these benefits as well. By elevating the mood of those around you, you can reduce their stress levels as well as yours and perhaps improve the quality of social interactions you experience with them, reducing everyone’s stress level even more.
Have you ever caught a case of the giggles with someone else at an inappropriate moment? And then even though you know you shouldn’t be laughing, and then by the time you manage to stop, the situation somehow doesn’t seem so bad anymore? I have—at a funeral! (It’s a long story…) The point is though, that I truly love the fact that laughter softens difficult moments. I have thankfully surrounded myself with very funny friends who continuously bring joy to my life and make the bad moments seem a little more bearable. Nearly every friend of mine is funny and loves to make me laugh. And let me tell you, laughing, smiling, and enjoying one another is truly one of the best ways to diminish a tough, stressful, or negative situation. Laughter brings the focus away from anger, negativity, hopelessness, bitterness, and guilt like nothing else can. Humor gives us a lighter perspective and can even help us change our view so that something that seemed threatening can become simply a minor obstacle.
Above all, laughter and playful behavior offer a sense of engagement. The act of laughing can take you “out of time” and get you focused on the moment, which is something desperately needed by high-stressed women today who are utterly married to “time.” The act of play and laughter are one of the few aspects of our lives that are not about the outcome but the acts themselves, and that is so healing! The joy in work is often lost in our high-stressed lives because we are all so serious, just trying to muddle through our over-packed day. When we lack episodes of laughter, connections and touch, we very easily begin to feel that our daily duties are laborious, painful, and downright frustrating. We have unfortunately lost our playfulness and silliness, only to exchange them over time with deadlines, dread, and exhaustion. And in doing this, we have also surrounded ourselves with those who are just like the people we have become: serious work-a-holics who are no fun at all!
The Three Types of Friends You Should Have in Your Tribe:
- Fearless Adventurer – Being busy and stuck in our own over-packed stressful life often calls for a friend that will talk you into breaking loose and taking a load off. We all need someone that is fun, lighthearted, adventurous, and playful to encourage us let go of our schedule, and do something we would have never done otherwise. It’s good for our soul, mind and spirit and will most likely cause you to laugh, release endorphins and be more proud of yourself for doing it!
- Wise Counselor Confidant – There are situations in life (sometimes more often than we wish) where we just have to face the truth that comes right out of the mouth of someone closest to us. If you are struggling with a relationship dilemma or work situation, calling upon a trusted, wise friend can be invaluable. Being close to a situation will often keep us for seeing it as it really is. Taking off the rose colored glasses and Polly-Anna mindset, and getting smacked upside the head to wake up and see things for the way they are often happens by a trusted friend showing it to you up close and personal.
- Loyal Bestie – Sometimes when you are mining your fears out of your gut, to hopefully open your heart and spirit to new thoughts, goals, and challenges, all you really need is a loyal friend to hold your hair back while you throw up everything bugging you into the proverbial toilet of life. Loyal Besties are there for you no matter what, they know you, understand you, and are willing to let you make mistakes while they support you and mentor you, and most of all just listen well.
Nisha Jackson PhD
Brilliant Burnout “How Successful Driven Women Can Stay in the Game, by Rewiring their Bodies, Brains, and Hormones”