All humans need human connection to varying degree. We are social beings. In pre-historic times, our ancestors formed tribes. Being rejected from the tribe led to loss of protection and death.
Modern society no longer requires banding together for survival. The need for human connection is no less important for emotional well-being and happiness. Researchers tells us that positive human connection lead to healthier, happier lives.
The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in the book, “The Book of Joy” teach about loneliness and aloneness:
“Clearly the psychological experience of loneliness is quite different from the physical experience of feeling alone. We can feel joy when we are alone but not when we are lonely.”
We can be physically removed from others for extended periods of time, like hermit monks. Having an open heart with trust and friendship, even when physically removed from others, will decrease feeling lonely.
Fear, distrust, and self-focus contribute to loneliness. Kindness, compassion, and being open and warm-hearted is the remedy for loneliness. Douglas Abrams summarized conversations with the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu by saying, “We do not need to wait for others to open their hearts for us. By opening our heart to others, we can feel connected to them, whether on a mountain-top or in the middle of Manhattan.”
Fast-paced lives make connecting with others challenging. The following strategies increase human connection:
- Slow down. Look at your daily to-do list and eliminate one or two of the non-essentials. Focus on the must-do items. Let go of the rest.
- Focus outward. Too much self-focus narrows our vision. Replay conversations that you have had with others, or your inner dialogue. If you notice using “I” or “me” disproportionally, widen conversation to include “others” or “you”.
- Practice acceptance. Criticism of others may be completely unavoidable. Practice bringing attention to the judgment of others. Say to yourself, “I accept this person’s difference. They are human just like me.”
- Be warm and welcoming. Making the first move by smiling and saying “hello” to strangers. It is often met with warmth and kindness in return. Genuinely greet others with warmth and friendliness.
- Carry compassion and kindness with you. Be mindful of holding an attitude of compassion and kindness towards all. The positivity we exude will influence how others perceive us. It will start a positive feedback loop.
Loneliness causes suffering. Human connection contributes to healthy and happier lives. Engaging these strategies requires practice and trust. Fear will emerge. Trust that we will be better for having open and kind hearts. Which strategy will you practice today?
Written by John Montopoli, LMFT, LPCC founder and director or Pacific CBT.