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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Health and the Power of Human Connection

Dec 30, 2020 09:30AM ● By Amanda Couturier
In the wake of COVID-19, people are experiencing the disastrous effects that the lack of human connection can have on their overall well-being. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, love and belonging are third-tier needs, suggesting that humans cannot become the best version of themselves until they feel a sense of love and belonging. As it turns out, there may be actual proof that being with others impacts one’s health on a much deeper level than we could imagine.

Enter sociogenomics, a field of study that looks at how and to what degree the genome is affected by social factors. Current research suggests that situations such as isolation, loneliness and conflict can negatively impact the expression of one’s genes. In a January 2018 Annual Review of Psychology article, Brigham Young University researcher Julianne Holt-Lunstad presents evidence that the lack of social connection is actually a risk factor for premature mortality.

Of course, it stands to reason that the opposite is also true. This was demonstrated in an October 2019 Psychosomatic Medicine article, which shows that positive social connection activates anti-inflammatory and antiviral pathways.

People encounter many barriers to accessing the curative power of relationships. Two common reasons are that people do not know how to engage in positive relationships, and that there is a perceived lack of opportunity to meet and engage with people that they can relate to. Trauma, unhealthy patterns and low self-worth can inhibit one’s willingness to be vulnerable enough to enter into a supportive relationship. If you identify as someone who struggles to form healthy, lasting connection with others, or you see that there have been unhealthy patterns modeled for you in childhood, seeing a therapist is a great step to take toward healing and change.

Even for people who do not struggle with relationships, finding others to connect with can be quite a challenge. In school, we are required to be in daily situations with our peers, but as an adult it can be a daunting task to form new friendships. Here are some reminders and tips when it comes to finding new friends.

Be Brave

If you see someone you think you want to be friends with, speak up. There is usually a reason we feel drawn to someone. If you sense a natural chemistry with a person, it is likely that they feel it as well but are too afraid to say anything. Invite them for coffee, or a walk, anything. The worst that can happen is that they say no.

Be Open

We’ve all been in an awkward situation such as arriving to yoga class early and then focusing on our phone because we don’t know anyone. But no one is going to start chatting with you if you look busy. If you have the opportunity to interact with others, take it. You never know what the universe might present to you.

Put Yourself in the Right Situations

If you have an interest, explore it with others. Take an in-person yoga class instead of doing it from home; sign up for an art class; or join your local group bike ride. The more you challenge yourself to be around others with similar interests, the more likely it will be that friendships and connection will happen organically.

Clear a Path

Out with the old, in with the new. That is to say, make room for new, healthy connections by purging old relationships that are no longer serving you. Many people feel obligated to continue old friendships out of a sense of loyalty, but the truth is that if a relationship isn’t giving you energy, it is taking it from you. Take stock of the connections in your life and be intentional about who you give your time to.

Work on the Most Important Relationship in Your Life: Yourself

It is difficult to be authentically yourself if you feel that who you are is not good enough. If you have self doubts, you may only be showing people a façade rather than giving them a chance to know the real you. There will always be disconnection where there is inauthenticity.

When the New Year arrives, the goal of improving health and wellness tends to focus heavily on nutrition and exercise. This year, challenge yourself to consider your social wellness. Think of all the lives that might be positively impacted, in addition to your own, by fostering new connections and strengthening existing relationships.

Amanda Couturier, LPC, FNTP, is the owner of Whole Life Wellness, LLC, in the Milwaukee area, which provides services that include nutritional therapy, life coaching and corporate wellness. For more information, call 262-264-8825, email [email protected] or visit
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