I was walking out to the mailbox when I noticed an elaborate project being built in my neighbor’s front yard. It looked like quite the engineering feat; I commented on the workmanship, and we struck up a physically distant conversation – him on the front porch, and me standing in my driveway. I discovered he was my neighbor’s dad who was visiting for a holiday weekend. He had great stories to share, and I was interested in hearing them.
As he shared some of his stories with me, I wondered if he might have a personal core value of continuous learning or education or service. Whatever his personal core values might be, I connected with his stories as they reminded me of similar work that my mom has done with teens and young adults. Brené Brown says she defines connection partly as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued.” Connecting with someone, even briefly can give you what you need to press on. The connection can be as simple as a kind interaction with the person who serves your Starbucks, a shared laugh out loud joke with a colleague, a text message with a family member, or a conversation with your neighbor’s father. Those small interactions can satisfy our need for community.
According to Psychology Today, social connection improves health, strengthens immunity, helps recover from illness faster, and even increases longevity. Studies show that social connection should be as much of a complete wellness routine as exercising and eating the right foods.
Studies also indicate that we can increase connection through practicing compassion for others. Compassion is an organizational value at InnerWill, and connecting with grace and empathy is one of our behaviors. Focusing on giving to others is a way to feel more connected. Find those things you are passionate about and look for ways to contribute in those areas to make a positive impact. You might be healthier as a result!
Your holidays and the ways you usually connect might look different this year. I haven’t seen my mom since Thanksgiving 2019 as a result of COVID and I miss her. COVID has changed how we connect and some of it just flat out stinks, so let’s just call that out. And yet, what hasn’t changed is our ability to choose – to choose to be grateful. It’s a choice that we can intentionally make. I’m grateful for connecting with a neighbor’s dad and for his choice to share some stories that positively impacted my day and reminding me that I have plenty to be thankful for.