We all need connection! No matter who you are and what you do, you need a community where you feel supported and are fully accepted and loved just for being you. In short, a place where you belong. A sense of connection with others is crucial for our self-esteem and personal identity.
Research has shown that our social connections can change our genes and make us healthier, yet many of us are lacking the positive encouragement and supportive relationships we need in order to move toward our best selves.
Happiness is Best when Shared
Your community (or tribe) can help you find your way back to happy when you’re going through a rough patch and having their support during your health journey is very powerful. The right community can help you sustain lifestyle changes, behavior changes and habit changes that are important to your long-term success, happiness and health.
One study showed that a lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. On the other hand, strong social connection leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity. If you truly want to be healthy and happy, I believe that connection is one of the most important aspects of personal fulfillment and success.
Our health and wellness are influenced by the places we live, learn, work and play.
In fact, UCLA professor of psychology Matthew Lieberman writes, “Becoming more socially connected is essential to our survival. In a sense, evolution has made bets at each step that the best way to make us more successful is to make us more social.” Lieberman’s scientific study shows that our need to connect is as fundamental as our need for food and water and if we don’t have it, we suffer psychologically.
He also writes: “Data suggests that we are profoundly shaped by our social environment and that we suffer greatly when our social bonds are threatened or severed. When this happens in childhood, it can lead to long-term health and educational problems. We may not like the fact that we are wired such that our well-being depends on our connections with others, but the facts are the facts.”
We need connection with others as much as we need oxygen
Brene Brown, Professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, specializes in social connection. In an interview, she said:
A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick. – Brene Brown
We were designed to be social creatures, but we often try to fill that need with other things like money and power, the newest car or technology gadget or even something as simple as the comfort of food. The root of most of these desires is an unfulfilled need to belong, to be accepted, to connect with others, to be loved.
We’ve moved away from literally relying on the members of our tribe for survival to priding ourselves on being independent and not needing help from anyone, but the truth of the matter is that a sense of social connection is one of our fundamental human needs.
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. – Jim Rohn
Choose Your Community Wisely
Connection has nothing to do with the number of friends you have on Facebook or any social media platform. Neither is it about the number of friends you have, it’s truly about the quality of those relationships and whether you can be your true self around those people. Can you share your flaws, your fears, your insecurities? Do you know for sure that you can open up and be who you are without rejection and judgment? Those are the kinds of connections we need to seek.
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn believed that the five people you spend the most time with shape who you are, so if you hang out with negative people, you’ll adopt a negative attitude. If your closest relationships are with people who focus on their aches, pains and lack of health that’s eventually where your focus will be as well. If you hang out with people who are positive and believe in taking responsibility for their own health…guess what? You might interact with many people, but the few who are closest to you have the greatest impact on your way of thinking, your self-esteem and your decisions, so having healthy connections is critical.
Creating healthy connections and building your personal community is a vital part of living a balanced, healthy life. If you have a community, but you think you don’t have the time to connect, it’s important to make the time. You have to know that there are people out there who get you and when things get tough, you’ll know there are people who understand and will be there for you.
I encourage you to write down the 3-5 people you spend the most time with and ask yourself this: Who are they? What do they do with their lives? How happy or optimistic are they? Who are they striving to be Will they help you get to the next level you want to get to? Do they push you forward? Do they support you being your best self, mentally, emotionally and spiritually? You should also know that these five people will probably change over time as you grow and change, and that’s OK. Some people are only meant to be in our lives for a short season – all the more reason to make sure we make the right connections.
Who are you connected to?