Why We Need to Connect More

When I moved into my first home, with a 3-year-old, it was scary and a little lonely at first. What helped enormously were the wonderful neighbours I had. I often had coffee, a meal or a chat with one lot of neighbours, while my adjoining neighbours, a young married couple with a daughter the same age as Lisa, were a Godsend. That neighbour often brought my washing in if it looked like it was going to rain, checked up on me if she hadn’t seen me for a few days, and cooked for us when I was sick. We also minded each other’s children for short periods when necessary. That was my first real taste of what is was like to live in a supportive community.

Several years later I moved into another rented home in Lugarno, where I also had two wonderful neighbours. One had a pool which we were invited us to use any time. I often had coffee and a chat in my neighbour’s kitchen on a Saturday afternoon. The other neighbour would ask if I needed anything taken to the tip and told me to call on him if I ever needed any help. When my mother had her first heart attack my father contacted my neighbour who picked up Lisa from school and looked after her so I could go to the hospital. Every Christmas, for six years, we had breakfast at either one of our neighbour’s home, whilst another neighbour, who was a member of the Salvation Army, sang carols outside. I only moved out of that home because the owners, who had been living overseas, decided to return home, otherwise I suspect I’d still be there today. Since then I’ve lived in houses where most of the time I don’t even see my neighbours, let alone talk to them.

I found this statistic interesting. Sarah Pressman, from the University of California discovered that: obesity reduces longevity by 20%, drinking by 30%, smoking by 50% and loneliness by 70%. Social connection is something we are losing and it’s one of the most important ingredients for health and happiness.

Why we’ve lost our connection

A lot of people say we have lost our connection because we are too busy, and while some of that may be true, I don’t believe it’s the only reason. I know that when I lived at Lugarno my career was really taking off and I worked incredibly hard, but I always had time for a coffee and chat, or even to help out my neighbours.

The leading cause of death in Australia, and increasingly throughout the Western world, is heart disease. Of course, a lot of that can be attributed to our diet and way of living, but it can also indicate the impact this lack of connection is having on us. Just look at these statistics:

  •  Depression is the leading cause of disability world wide and an estimated 45% of people will experience a mental health condition (According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics).
  • Between 2011 and 2014 1 in 9 Americans took antidepressants, whereas 30 years ago that number was 1 in 50 (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).
  • Suicide statistics have increased over the past ten years and are now at the highest levels ever.

What’s coincided with these alarming statistics is the introduction of technology. I’m a lover of technology and I run a business that uses a lot of technology, so I am not knocking it, but what we all need to think about is the impact technology has had on the way we connect with others.

The reason we are not connecting the way we once did, in my opinion, is that we fear rejection. When we used to ring people not everyone had time to talk, and we accepted that, we didn’t take those rejections personally. We would knock on the door of a new neighbour. We would walk up to a stranger and start a conversation, and sometimes people would look at us strangely but we survived. Now we take the easier route, we message, text and connect over social media and in doing so a vital skill that once  developed naturally, has gotten weaker.

If we want the world to change, we have to be willing to put ourselves out there. We need to stop worrying about what other people think of us. We need to be prepared to reach out and fail, then pick ourselves up and try again. We need to smile at strangers more. Take a chance and join a group or do something new. And don’t wait for people to talk to you, be the one to start the conversation. Not everyone you meet is going to be someone you’ll want to be friends with, but it’s the act of being open that tends to draw people to us.

I believe that one of the major contributors to depression is a loss of  hope. When we don’t believe that anything will change what is there to look forward to. Hope gives us the courage and is something we all need to hold onto, because without hope we will never develop, or maintain, resilience, the two are inextricably intertwined.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

 

 

Building resilience

Motivation is desire, a feeling of excitement that inspires us to take action. A shift occurs when we change the way see things. Resilience is the ability to pick ourselves up when life challenges us and keep moving. Focus on developing all three and you become an unbeatable force.

It’s easy to be happy when life is flowing smoothly. It’s easy to stay motivated when we make progress. And it’s easy to be positive and take action when we believe, but what challenges most of us are the times when we make no progress, when nothing seems to be happening, or when we lose someone or feel hurt by someone important to us.

Motivation dies during tough times and this is when so many people give up on their dreams. To create permanent change we need to create a shift in the way we perceive events so we can become more resilient. Tough times are a necessary part of life. They build character. We still need motivation, it helps to get us started but when we shift our perspective, we become more open minded, we are willing to do things differently, to look within, to BE different. A shift helps us grow and builds resilience.

And that is why I love life coaching so much. A good life coach can help a client shift their perspective. Help them recognise what is holding them back, see the opportunities that are right in front of them to be more and do more.

Your emotions show you what you need to let go of

No one will feel happy, positive or inspired all of the time. We all experience down times. Emotions shine a light on what we need to strengthen, and show us what we need to let go of.

Giving up is an abdication of responsibility. True surrender is a deepening of responsibility. It is relaxing into what is while asking yourself what do I need to do to move forward.

Sometimes moving forward is hard, when my son died I was in such intense emotional pain I didn’t think I could survive. Just the thought of getting through each day felt overwhelming, my motivation to keep going was to support my daughter and to end the pain, so I focused on each minute. What I practised, without realising it, was being mindful. As each day went by the minutes extended and I would go for longer periods without feeling as if I was going to shatter. Over time I started finding joy in little things until I got to a point where I felt alive again. A shift had occurred in me and I discovered that I was wiser and stronger than I ever thought possible.

Make a list of your strengths

Our strengths, or potential strengths, support us during tough times. Often we don’t recognise our strengths and that’s because they can be closely allied with our weaknesses. When I was younger you just had to tell me I couldn’t do something and I would silently vow to myself to do it. This is how I gave up smoking a long time ago. While this may not appear to be a strength so much of what I have overcome or achieved came about because of the vows I made to myself. I was told I could not write well enough to ever be a writer, the same with being a speaker, I didn’t agree with my critics and I set out to show them I could. Now while that may not be the best form of motivation if it works for you use it. It’s always about how we act upon our strengths that determines if they support us. I am a problem solver, but if I get too stuck in finding a solution, I end up resisting what is. If I spend too much time taking care of others I burn out, so it’s about acting on our strengths in a way that supports us and for me that means pausing and reflecting as if I am a wise person. As I am naturally impulsive pausing before I jump into something thinking it will be the solution to all of my problems saves me from making costly mistakes.

There are time when life sucks. You resist what is every time you blame and complain. Life gets easier when you look at difficult times as an opportunity to create something better. You have a lot more power than you give yourself credit for. If you are stuck in a job you don’t like – change it. If you are in a relationship you aren’t happy in – set boundaries, seek professional help and when you have tried everything and nothing works, move on. If you are trying to build a business and it’s not working – seek advice or coaching from someone who can help you. If you don’t have enough money look for ways to increase your income. I only ended up in business because I couldn’t find a way, as a single woman with children, to achieve my goals in the paid work force, which led me to achieving more than I expected.

Most people have more strengths than they realise, just have a look at this list to see how many strengths you have, and add your own if it’s not included here:

Creativity

Curiosity

Open mindedness

Willingness

Determination

Love of learning

Courage

Being able to see things from different points of view

Persistence

Kindness

Integrity

Energy

Positivity

Optimism

Leadership

Diplomacy

Emotional or intellectual intelligence

Forgiveness

Humility

Gratitude

Self control

Discipline

Humour

Light heartedness

Peacemaking

We often hear that the younger generation are not resilient, and that is partly because they have grown up with more than previous generations, but life gives everyone equal opportunities to become more resilient, sometimes they come in a different shape to what we expect.

I would not be who I am today if I had not made the choice to look for the good in every experience. Being an optimist is a strength which has become part of my personal calling. Pause for a moment and consider your life challenges and ask yourself, who is life calling you to be right now?