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Finding Connection

‘We were literally born to connect. The drive is etched deeply into our DNA. From the first moments of life, we crave the company of others. You might suppose that such abject dependence is something we all eventually outgrow. But we never do – at least not completely. Even as adults, we still reply on the presence of others. When we’re deprived of it just for a few days, our stress hormones escalate, mood and energy plummet, and key biological processes quickly fall out of balance.’[1]

hanging out with friends

So thankful for meaningful, nurturing relationships!

With our instant and global methods of connecting we have the wonderful ability to be aware of our friends and families activities on a day to day basis. However, this type of connection is inadequate in meeting our deep desire for attachment. Nurturing friendships and meaningful conversation encourages a sense of belonging and purpose, reduces stress as you work through life’s problems together and builds confidence and a strong sense of worth. Close friends are good for your health.

But finding connection is not easy. It takes effort, time and prioritizing to develop meaningful relationships.

Effort – Since I have been married, we have lived on three continents and in 10 different cities. With each move, I exerted an incredible amount of energy to develop new friendships. One thing I realized is that people are busy; their lives are full of friends, work and family. They may not naturally think (or need) to open up to someone new. For me to connect with others, I had to make all the effort -initially. Making coffee dates, planning family times with other families and sending all sorts of notes, in every way imaginable – eventually – rewarding me with needed connection. Eventually.

Time – When we get busy, our friendships tend to move to the back burner. Work, kids, other responsibilities usually take precedence over time spent with friends. It’s really a mistake because friends help us to live better. A famed Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends’ people had, ‘the less likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged, and the more likely they were to be leading a joyful life. In fact, the results were so significant, the researchers concluded, that not having close friends or confidants was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight.’ [2] Carving out time for people is a necessary part of healthy living!

Prioritizing – I once read a book called ‘Buyers, Renters and Freeloaders’[3] which helped me to build a framework around viewing the health of my relationships. Freeloaders are unwilling to put much energy into the relationship, taking more than they ever give. These relationships can be initially satisfying (we all have a need to be needed), but over time, without healthy boundaries, they can be emotionally draining! Renters view the relationship as temporary. They often pop up around projects or activities of mutual interest. These relationships are rewarding, but use wisdom ….once the rental season is over, so are they. Buyers will invest. They invest with their three most treasured resources, time, money and love.  The nurture and care received from the mutual sharing in buyer relationships provides the strength and confidence to engage in the others. From my perspective, prioritizing your relationships in a 70% (buyers), 20% (renters), 10% (freeloaders) split is a healthy way to stay open to others and deeply nurtured at the same time.

On Canada Day (yesterday) my husband and I were out for a bike ride and ended up watching an aboriginal dance in a local park.  This particular dance was called the Social Dance.  Apparently, in ancient custom, when the warriors left the village for extended periods of time to hunt, the ones left behind often experienced symptoms of depression.  When that happened they would call for the Social Dance where everyone came out of their teepee’s and danced together to lift their spirits.

I noted in my heart that friends can do just that for one another.

[1] The Depression Cure, Stephen S. Ilardi, Ph.D.

[2] UCLA Study on Friendship, 2002 Gale Berkowitz

[3] By Williard F. Harley, Jr.