Recently, I was speaking to a group about one of my favorite topics, ways to live more mindfully and handle stress in a healthier way. Ultimately, being more present allows us to experience more joy AND decreases cognitive decline, disease, and depression. Powerful results! I presented several positive lifestyle changesat this talk, but one in particular had a striking effect. The energy in the room changed and I could feel that this was a need that truly resonated with everyone…the need for more meaningful connections.
Why meaningful connections? First of all, it feels good and stimulates the production of positive neurotransmitters in your brain. We are human and humans are meant to spend time together. But there are other very good reasons. It boosts your immune system, it stabilizes and supports your parasympathetic nervous system (it is grounding and takes you out of survival mode), and it can increase your energy! Connection, the spoken and written word, and communication have always been significant to me, as a coach and therapist. I often recommend that my clients increase their socialization and commit to communicating with friends or family, join a group, go to a class, or at the very least speak with people in a store or at the dog park.
Create the intention and consciously choose how you want to make meaningful connections when you go out. Think about who you want to spend time with and who gives you supportive energy and reach out to those people in particular.
Here are five things that you can do that will increase your meaningful connections on a daily basis.
- Make eye contact when you are speaking with people. Stop what you are doing and really focus on the other person. Put down your phone, close your laptop and face the person. I know it can be hard but don’t be tempted to “multi-task.”
- Listen, truly listen to the person that you are speaking with and ask questions. Allow them to finish their thought and pause before interjecting or interrupting (sometimes I catch myself getting excited and jumping in, but I know better).
- Express yourself with your sincere words and gestures. When you have the opportunity – hug someone, pat them on the shoulder, squeeze their arm and give a high-five. Cuddle with your child, loved ones and/or pet.
- Schedule consistent times to connect with the people you care about and love. (You may have heard me say this one before and you will probably hear it again). Time moves so quickly and you may not realize how much time has passed since you’ve had any quality time with your friends, family, partner or spouse. Schedule this time and respect it as you do your medical appointments.
- Make time to connect with yourself to simply be, do nothing at all and reset or recharge. Schedule at least 10 minutes each day – the more the better. Check in with yourself – you may “just” sit, daydream, look at the trees from a bench, lay down to rest and breathe, hike, enjoy a cup of tea (or another beverage). I journal in the evenings or enjoy my time in nature. Many mornings, my dog, Sam, and I can be found walking and watching a sunrise. A beautiful way for us to start the day!
After my talk, several people came up to me and admitted that they really felt they lacked daily meaningful connection and they were going to make that a priority moving forward. I feel very fortunate that I’m able to make meaningful connections each week with my family, friends and/or clients. Making these meaningful connections can transform your attitude and the tone of your day. In the long term, it will support your heart and brain health but also support your overall well-being. Anytime is a great time to gather with friends or get outdoors, I highly recommend that we move meaningful connections up on our “to do” list and spend quality time with the people we care about, ourselves and nature.