SFH #58: Connecting for Health

Why we should foster our connections and combat loneliness 👭

Last night was the second meeting for our Monday Night Men's Group. I feel grateful that we were able to coordinate and start meeting in person outside here in Portland, and more importantly, connect in a meaningful way. I planted the seeds of this group because I previously experienced the power of this deeper connection. Today, I want to look at the science behind our need for it.

Humans are social animals, and we are susceptible to health issues when we break down our social bonds. COVID has been an assault on connectedness on top of the existing chasm in relating with our modern lives. When we aren't able to connect, we inevitably feel lonely. Loneliness isn't just about being solo; it's a natural feeling that you lack the connection you need. There is intimate loneliness, a longing for a partner; social loneliness is the need for quality friendships, and collective loneliness is our need to be connected to a community. Without solid bonds, we increase our likelihood of diseases such as dementia and heart disease. Most shockingly, our mortality rate jumps by at least 29% if we have weak social connections.1

Our bodies and minds signal danger when we face isolation. We need cooperation and connection for our evolutionary safety and the proliferation of our genes. Research shows that our sleep and stress suffer when we experience loneliness for more extended periods.2 Worse yet, we exacerbate the lonely issue because we continue to perceive invitations and opportunities as potential threats to our well-being. Add our embedded reliance on technology for connection, and we encounter even more significant obstacles for inter-relation, attentiveness, and empathy.

So, how do we protect our health and deepen our connections?

Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy outlines these helpful strategies in his book, 'Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World.'

1) Get at least 5 minutes (ideally 15) of quality time with your closest friends and family (your inner circle). In-person is always best, yet phone or video-calling will still do the trick. 🤝 

2) Find ways to nurture a regular circle of friends and connections periodically (your middle circle). Think book group, sports team, church, fitness classes, or indeed any activity group that floats your boat. 🚣‍♀️   

3) Build connections to people around your community (your outer circle). Whether you are walking around your neighborhood, visiting your local coffee shop, or shopping at the grocery store, try smiling and engaging in friendly conversations to learn about others around you. You might be surprised at the positive impact of the most simple interactions.🛒 

Here’s Dr. Murthy talking about the value of quality connections and full attention. 📺