“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” ― William James
There is more and more research today supporting what I think most of us already knew – whether consciously or subconsciously – that humans are wired for connection. What I have witnessed and experienced is when we find ourselves in healthy, reciprocal relationships, we grow and when we experience disconnection from our tribe, we wilt.
And yet our social culture tells us that we should value independence, not need anyone or fear being labeled ‘co-dependent’, and that we should be able to solve our problems on our own and, if we can’t, there is something wrong with us.
I understand it can be a bit scary to admit to our need for connection, so below are 5 intention-setting ideas to consider trying to support your well-being through expanding and deepening your connection with others:
- Volunteer. In the language of yoga, “seva” is the Sanskrit term meaning “selfless service” and engaging in seva is believed to assist in someone’s spiritual growth while also improving the community. Although this implies releasing any expectations of receiving anything personally in return for our efforts, my experience and research suggests that the reward is a felt experience, one of working with others that care about the same things you do . . . in other words, vibing with your tribe.
- Join a group. With the advent of social media, it is not hard to find a group that has the same interests as you do. Whether you enjoy indoor or outdoor activities, Meetup has a group for everyone and if you don’t find a group that is exactly what you are looking for, you can create your own and invite your tribe to join. Whether you are looking for someone to hike, read, meditate, or socialize your dog with, there are others looking for the same thing.
- Share your care. Have you noticed how good it feels to help someone else out that might be struggling with something, whether it is a stranger that needs a little help with opening a door or a friend that might be sick? Research is discovering that empathy is part of the hard-wiring connection between humans. So when we see someone suffering, our empathy kicks in and encourages us to express compassion to others, because it makes us feel good to help relieve the suffering of others.
- Ask for help. I know this one can be tricky, but think about it for a moment. If you feel good when you help others, then why would you not want to create an opportunity for someone else to feel good, by helping you? I always say “Any job is easy, if you have the right tools”, so, in this case, the “right tools” might just be the members of your tribe.
- Commit time. Our social culture expects that we “do more with less”, leaving us chronically multi-tasking and wishing for more than 24 hours in a day. With so many demands on our time, we can inadvertently find ourselves spending more and more time alone, even if we tell ourselves that it is because we just need to sleep. What the research is leading us to understand, though, is that spending time with people who make us feel supported, valued, and accepted may contribute more to our overall health than other typical suggestions such as exercise and not smoking. So, we need to make our connections a priority on our ‘to do’ list, knowing that by doing so we are contributing not only to our own well-being, but to the well-being of our tribe!