Did you know that research shows us that loneliness, especially during these uncertain times, is on the rise & the lack of human connection can actually be more harmful to your health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure? WHAT??! Well it's true. And give some thought to this. What does one do from day to day to require care of yourself? Most people would say things like "I ate healthy today" or "I exercised today" but what about your social connections?
In today's day and age, we live incredibly busy lives and trying to have a work/ life balance is certainly a struggle. Adding on school, hobbies and self care can all seem overwhelming. Add on lockdowns and online schooling, and forget it! I get it. Often our social connections tend to fall by the wayside. But connecting with others is more important than ever.
Social connection has been proven to:
- Lower anxiety and depression
- Help us regulate our emotions
- Lead to higher self worth & empathy
- Improve our immune systems
By neglecting our need to connect, we put our health in danger and therefore the sad reality is that we reside in an exceedingly never ending time of disconnection. And while technology has the power to bring us together, the screens around us actually disconnect us from many things like: nature, physical touch, ourselves etc. Contrary to popular belief, Wi-Fi on it's own isn't enough to fill our social needs. As humans we thrive on face-to-face interaction and technology should only be enhancing our connections, not replacing it.
Now, do not get me wrong... I'm not saying the requirement for human connection implies that we all (especially introverts) must become social butterflies. Having human connection truly looks different for every person and if you are not sure where to begin to seek out meaningful connection, that's okay.
Here are some ideas to help you build connections:
- Try a new group activity
- Reach out to an old friend
- Introduce yourself to your neighbours
- Ask someone for help when you need it
- Do a random act of kindness
"Extroverts have it easy when it comes to making connections, yet learning to form genuine connections is an area where introverts can learn to shine," says psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD, and author of Joy From Fear.
It was true before we shielded ourselves behind the walls of cell phone screens, but its truer now more than ever. And if this pandemic has turned you from extrovert into introvert, and you're feeling that perhaps you forgot the way to build that human connection again... the following pointers are going to be for you.
1. Smile from your heart:
Seems easy or simple right? However, we tend to flash a "quick" smile or look away when we feel uncomfortable but one of the biggest ways to begin a new relationship/connection is to offer a genuine and warm smile. So instead of flashing a quick/obligatory smile, try to smile from the heart and truly mean it.
2. Invite conversation by giving a glimpse into your life:
In this scenario, we want to offer up a little bit of information about ourselves conversationally and then ask the other person about themselves and watch the conversation flow naturally. For example "I love doing yoga, I find it so calming and freeing - what do you do for exercise?" This shows the other person that you are genuinely interested in getting to know more about them. We are creating dialogues instead of monologues and we are allowing the person to see a sliver into who we are and in return they will feel open to sharing as well.
3. Offer compliments or affirmations:
I am a huge advocate for the compliment strategy to open up a conversation. It doesn't need to be huge, something simple as "I love your necklace" or "Your hair looks amazing today!" The thing about complimenting someone is that it is presented authentically and without any ulterior motive. It often leads to the recipient thinking "Wow, he/she didn't have to say that but he/she did and it's truly made my day." It is truly a low effort way to recognize someone.
4. Put yourself out there:
I don't mean forcing yourself into people's lives but just putting yourself out there and pushing yourself to be social in a light/easy situation. Invite a new friend to share a cup of tea, lunch in the park, or a window-shopping break. Something simple.
5. Remember to be yourself:
I know, you hear it all the time "just be yourself' but I'm repeating it because many of us constantly forget that. We don't want to pretend to be anyone else. If you are introvert, that's okay.. use it to your advantage!
Building a meaningful human connection can be quite challenging and despite wanting this kind of connection, some people might not understand or show up for you and that's ok. It's about trying and understanding you are worthy of connection and the people that matter will show up.
Also, no matter what, you will be able to meet people who have the same desire and capacity to build these meaningful connections with you!