5 Actions to Add More Connection to Your Daily Life:
Did You Know that Relationships are Critical Nutrients for Human Survival?
R is for relationships.
Relationships – including brief positive moments of connection – are vital for our emotional and physical health, well-being, and how we experience our lives.
Robust scientific evidence validates the benefits of relationships. According to neuroscientist Julianne Holt-Lunstadt (2015)., social connections may be a critical factor for survival. Even the briefest moments of connection can make a positive difference in your life.
Loneliness and social isolation affect many of us these days. A recent article in the Monitor on Psychology (American Psychological Association, 2019), cites multiple research studies showing that lack of social connection increases health risk in similar ways to obesity, smoking, and lack of physical activity (Novotney, 2019; Alcaraz, 2019; Holt-Lunstad, 2015). In fact, a meta-analysis study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science (Holt-Lundstad and colleagues, 2015) showed that social isolation and loneliness were two times more harmful than obesity to mental and physical health.
Other people matter
Christopher Peterson, an influential researcher in the field of positive psychology, is known for his visionary work on the factors that promote human potential and a life well-lived. Relationships are one of those factors. Peterson frequently declared that “other people matter.” The five core pillars for well-being and happiness – PERMA – proposed by Peterson’s pioneering colleague Martin Seligman (2011) outlines positive relationships as a cornerstone for a fulfilling life. These five essential components are: Positive emotions, Engagement (flow), positive Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishments.
Fast forward to the work of psychologist Barbara Fredrickson (2013), a leading researcher on emotions and relationships. Her findings are astounding:
“The new take on love that I want to share with you is this. Love blossoms virtually any time two or more people – even strangers – connect over a shared positive emotion, be it mild or strong” (Fredrickson, 2013).
Even brief moments of connection can offer benefits. Fredrickson terms this positivity resonance, a concept explaining that when two people share positive emotions – even momentarily – there is a synchrony between their biochemistry and behaviors, which can result in mutual connection and investment in each other’s well-being (2013). She calls these small positive interactions micro-moments of connection. Fredrickson’s findings show positive emotions and love as essential components of the human survival toolkit building bonds and creating community.
In her book, Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, and Become, Fredrickson cites research showing that love actually changes the body’s chemistry. In other words, humans are hard-wired for connection and one-ness. For example, moments of love and positivity resonance increase levels of the hormone oxytocin, which influences behavior, social interaction and levels of calm. Experiencing love and connection can also support vagal tone, helping our body regulate our emotions and deal with life’s stresses.
5 Actions to Add Positive Moments of Relationship to Daily Life
1 – Even fleeting moments of connection can nourish. Take a moment to say hello to people as you go through your day – the woman who serves you coffee, the cashier at the grocery store, your colleague or co-worker. Ask how that person is and really listen to the response.
2 – Increase your opportunities to interact with others – join a spiritual group, try an activity at the community center, take a class, go for a walk in the mall, your neighborhood, or around your office.
3 – Engage your strength of kindness to become involved in something larger than yourself – work at the food pantry, visit a friend or acquaintance who’s lonely or ill, offer to help someone carry their groceries to the car, give up your seat on the bus or in a waiting area, let someone in front of you in line.
4 – Share from your own wellspring of experience. Consider what you might like from others to help you feel more connected, and offer this to someone else – a friend, family member, co-worker, or neighbor. Perhaps an invite to lunch, an impromptu phone call, or a hearty handshake.
5 – Reflect on phrases of Lovingkindness. This type of compassionate meditation practice, which has evolved from Buddhist origins, can help us open our hearts, feel more interconnected with others, and create habits of goodwill (Fredrickson, 2013). In quiet moments of reflection, you might reflect on lovingkindness phrases, directing them toward a particular person – or toward the world in general. Examples of lovingkindness phrases include: May you be safe; May you be well; May you be happy (Salzburg, 2010; Fredrickson, 2013). You can develop lovingkindness into a positive habit. For more information on lovingkindness meditations, see the reference to Sharon Salzburg’s (2010) book below.
- Fredrickson, B.L. (2013). Love 2.0: How our supreme emotion affects everything we feel, think, do, and become. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press.
- Fredrickson, B. L. (2009). Positivity: Top-notch research reveals the upward spiral that will change your life. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.
- Fredrickson, B. (2013). NIH Record : Fredrickson describes nourishing power of small positive moments. LXV (10).
- Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: A meta-analytic review.Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10, 227-237.
- Holt-Lunstad, J. (2017). The potential public health relevance of social isolation and loneliness: Prevalence, epidemiology, and risk factors. Public Policy & Aging Report 27(4), 127-130.
- Novetney, A. (2019) Social isolation: It could kill you. Monitor on Psychology 50(5).
- Peterson C. (2006). A primer in positive psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
- Salzburg, S. (2010). The force of kindness. Change your life with love & compassion. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.
- Seligman, M. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York, NY: Atria Paperback.
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Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD is a life and leadership coach, psychologist, and educator. Ilene has dedicated much of her career to the personal and professional development and integrative well-being of others. She inspires others to find fresh perspectives and access their full potential as creative, resourceful, whole persons. Find Ilene online and access free resources at http://ileneberns-zare.com.
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