New Habits for Human Connection: Goodness in a Trying Time
"Social contact is a very basic need."
by Jamie Spannhake
May 16, 2020
When we think of ways to take care of ourselves, we may think of eating healthy, getting exercise, not smoking, and the like. But if social distancing during this pandemic pause has taught us anything (& it has taught us lots), it's that we also need human contact and connection. Science backs this up.
According to researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, our need to connect is akin to our need to eat. Their research shows that our brains activate the same neural pathways when we need food and when we need social contact. In other words, "social contact is a very basic need," says one of the researchers. Their research also shows, on a very simplified and basic level, when we are deprived of something we need -- like food or contact with others -- we want it more.
Well, that helps explain the way I feel, including my longing for human connection and interaction. Seems that old adage, "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone," is true, especially now.
As for me, I want to take what I've learned about the importance of human connection, and carry it forward as we start to return to (yet another) new "normal." Here's what I'm thinking:
I've taken this time to connect on a weekly basis with some of my closest friends. We have a set day and time for a zoom call. There's about 10 of us, each week between 3-6 friends participate. Why not keep that going when we are no longer required to social distance? Perhaps when we are seeing each other in person regularly, we may not want or need a weekly call, but wouldn't a monthly check-in be something to cherish and enjoy? I'll take that forward with me.
I've also taken this time to walk with a friend each week, usually on opposite sides of a road or trail. It's lovely: good exercise, good conversation, good connection. I want to take this habit forward with me too.
I've been spending many weekday mornings with my daughter, rather than working, as I am her home school teacher while school buildings are closed. I feel fortunate to have such flexibility in my work schedule (in large part because work has slowed down significantly, but we'll address those issues at another time). I've enjoyed the one-on-one time with her, and want to take that feeling forward with me. Perhaps not during weekday mornings when school starts again (fingers crossed!), but certainly on weekend mornings. Again, this is a new habit I want to take forward with me.
The point is, I cherish these connections, now more than ever, and I want to continue to cherish them.
What about you? What new habits for human connection will you take forward?