Wired To Connect
Updated: Oct 9, 2018
I struggled for a bit trying to figure out the best topic to kick off my blog. While I had some great options in front of me (which you will start seeing soon!), I decided to go with a topic that was universal to the human experience:
Connection to People.
Now, you might be wondering, "What do you mean by 'connection?' Or who are you talking about? Or you might even be thinking, "I don't live in a cave or anything...I am always around people. This is totally irrelevant to me." BUT, I'd like to invite you to take a moment and ask yourself how many of the people that you are surrounded by every day are you actually connected to or have a relationship with? Do they know your name is actually a nickname? Do you know that their family lives far away? Do they notice when you have had a bad day? Can you go to happy hour with someone if you wanted to? If you have answered yes to these questions, great! If you did not, then you are probably like so many people out there longing for connection yet not sure how to find it. I acknowledge that we all desire different amounts of people-time, but despite our differences, we all need it! For many, many reasons, our society is much less connected to one another today than ever. Yes...despite how many Facebook friends we have, or the number of followers we have of our Instas and Twitter feeds, we are a pretty disconnected society as a whole. But don't worry! It's not all doom and gloom! Making connection with others does not have to be complicated, AND I even have some science to back me up, so read on!
Much of the time, scientific research is on the cutting edge of discovery and knowledge; however, there are countless other instances where research does not discover something brand new, but rather, brings tangible evidence to things we have known intrinsically for centuries. For example, in terms of connection, most of our ancestors knew that it was important to live within a tribe or close-knit community. To many, this was the difference between life and death. Food, clothing, healthcare, childcare, companionship, tradition, and not getting eaten by a bear were some of the MANY benefits of living with other humans. While it is easy to see how food and a safe place to sleep at night are helpful things to have, science has not put much focus on the importance of relationships historically.
In the mid 1900s, the idea of "attachment" or connection was introduced into the world of science thanks to the ground-breaking efforts of the father of attachment, John Bowlby. His work and research was primarily focused on the parent-child relationship and the development of attachment styles. In a nutshell, he taught us that healthy attachment to our parents is super important and affects so many parts of our lives—development, self-esteem, impulse control, management of our emotions, and not surprisingly, our ability to establish meaningful relationships to others. His and many others' research brought much needed focus to the value of the family relationships, which is now a HUGE field of study and innovation.
Fast forward 100 years—we now know that important attachment relationships are not just limited to those with our parents; we can reap the benefits of connection with others no matter how old we are, or whether or not we are related to them. Many researchers are now looking at the brain, trying to figure out why we do what we do. They are discovering that the neuropathways associated with connection are embedded in the core of our beings! Matthew Lieberman, a neuroscience researcher at UCLA, reviewed 1000 studies in evolutionary science and concluded that connection to others is an innate human need, just like food and water. He discovered through brain scans that our brains respond in the same ways to social pain as they do to physical pain. WHAT?! When something physically hurts us for extended periods of time, we eventually seek out help because, well... it hurts! We as a society don't often afford the same attention to when we hurt emotionally or socially. This hidden hurt is healable; oftentimes, our social and emotional pain is healed through relationships! So whether you are a fan of people or not, we need other people in our lives. The need is weaved into our brains and beings. Work done by Dan Siegel, a neuroscientist and pioneer in the field of interpersonal neurobiology, demonstrates that relationships are a vital component to how our brains grow, develop, and change. Our relationships can actually change our brain! How we see and choose to interact with the world, other people, and ourselves is greatly shaped through our relationships with others. How so you might ask? Some examples are that being social and connected to others can decrease depression, help us live longer, get better sleep, make us more productive, and sharpen our minds/memory. Social connection also provides us with a rush of the pleasure-driven hormones, dopamine and oxytocin. Dopamine is a major player in the pleasure pathways in the brain and oxytocin is appropriately coined the "cuddle hormone." Both feel great and you can get both from connection to others. So now that I have convinced you that relationships and connection are important... what's next?
Just Do It ~
Step one: find people. Look around and see who is already in your life and consider deepening those relationships possibly by sharing something new about yourself with them or inquiring about something you don't know about them. If there are no specific relationships that you want to be intentional with then even the simple day-to-day conversations with the other person in the elevator or the person you always see at your local coffee spot can still be moments of connection. Learning someone's name might be the easiest way to start!
One final quick tip to creating moments of connection is just be yourself and don't worrying too much about how you will be perceived or judged. Sometimes, our choosing to be our genuine selves invites others to do the same and when we are our true selves, we have more headspace to pay attention to the interaction/conversation and be present in the moment. Being ourselves and fully present in the moment are great starts to meaningful connection, so go out there and smile at that person, say hello to that coworker/classmate, ask the waitress how their day is going, and call that friend up you haven't talked to in a year.
Happy connecting and see you on the blog again soon!
Bowlby - https://www.verywellmind.com/john-bowlby-biography-1907-1990-2795514
Areas Affected by Attachment Patterns - http://nurturingparenting.com/images/cmsfiles/long-term_effects_of_the_failure_of_childhood_attachment.pdf
Dr. Dan Siegel - https://www.drdansiegel.com/blog/2013/12/17/relationship-science-and-being-human/
Why We Are Wired to Connect - https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-we-are-wired-to-connect/
Health Benefits of Connection - http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/we-are-hard-wired-to-be-social-248746
Dopamine & Oxytocin Release with Connection - http://thebeehive.bumble.com/bumbleblog/brain-friendship