Is it just me or does the world feel heavy right now?
I know, I know, it’s not just me. I think most of us are feeling some sort of distress, be it political, emotional, work or relationship-related, there’s lots of confusion, lots of anger, lots of fear.
Everything just seems…off.
Whenever I am experiencing some sort of distress, I always come back to the one thing that, without fail, seems to eradicate this feeling—connection.
According to Brené Brown, research professor and (my favorite) author, “Humans are hard-wired for connection.” Whenever we feel alienated or separated, we stress, we worry, we fear.
Think about it, when we lose connection with ourselves, we do things we don’t want to do, work jobs we don’t like, and hang out with people we don’t really care for. We say we don’t know why we do those things, rather than digging deeper to identify our intrinsic values and goals, or explore our own fears. This causes us to stress, hold grudges, overreact, blame, and self-medicate with avoidance tactics (spending hours on social media, Netflix marathons, overscheduling, binge eating or drinking).
When we disconnect from each other, we blame, we shame, we judge, we troll, we lose compassion and don’t put ourselves in others’ shoes, we fear strangers and people different than us, we show disrespect, we belittle, we negate and argue, we put up walls, we become mean…gaaaah make it stop!
If we can do our part to encourage and support connection, little by little, we all win.
But how do we do this?
First and foremost, we must connect (or reconnect) with ourselves.
Some of us never learned what it means to connect with ourselves. Some of us know what it entails, but have become so comfortable with distraction and self-numbing that we’ve lost touch with our internal compass. If we’re not sure who we are, we’ll be unable to make those authentic connections with others that our inner-self is desperately craving.
The simplest way to reconnect with ourselves is to turn off distractions. Take a break from social media, TV, and background music, and just get quiet. We can’t begin to know ourselves if we can’t hear what our soul is telling us.
I’m a big believer in going for a quiet walk, journaling, or doing something creative like painting, dancing or even cooking. I know meditation can be intimidating, but it’s basically the best thing we can ever do for ourselves and the little voice inside us that’s dying to be heard.
The more quiet time we have, the more we’ll be able to listen for the answers to some of our biggest questions in life. If we’re looking for clarity, we have to get quiet.
Connecting with ourselves can bring up feelings or emotions that we’ve been suppressing and that may not feel so great. Once we allow ourselves to feel these emotions though, they expire and leave. Remember, what we resist persists. We must be willing to be uncomfortable sometimes, because again, it’s temporary.
That said, we must remember to practice self-compassion when the uncomfortable feelings arise. We can’t say things to ourselves that we wouldn’t dare say to our best pal.
Now when it comes to connecting with others, the easiest and fastest way, which I’m sure we all know, is to just be kind.
We must be the one who is willing to take the first step and talk to a stranger, put ourselves in another’s shoes before judging them, understand that everyone has a story that is different from our own, say please and thank you, stay away from too much negativity on social media, call rather than text, reconnect with old friends, ask the homeless man his name as we give him a dollar, honk only to alert and not to chastise, chat with the cashier in the checkout line, volunteer at places that expose us to a diverse group of people, offer help, practice patience, hold the door for people behind us.
But most importantly, we must not forget to connect with the people already in our lives. We need to call our parents more often, have dinner with our friends sans phones, be willing to engage in real conversation without distractions.
People are so hungry for good stuff these days, we never know whose day we’ll make, including our own.
Several years ago, I was having lunch with one of my dear friends whose work continually takes him to dangerous places around the world. I asked him, “Aren’t you afraid to go to these places?” He responded matter-of-factly, “Not at all. I make friends with the community. I talk with them, I share meals, I laugh with them, I learn their names and the names of their children. When you have friends, you’ll always be protected.”
This is something I have never forgotten and always keep in mind, whether I’m traveling to far off places or wandering in my own neighborhood. Do I always feel like stopping to talk to my neighbors? No, but I do it because I know that my connection with them ultimately keeps us all safe and makes our street a bit cozier.
No need to fear when you have friends.
If we can learn to get back to connecting authentically with ourselves and with each other, we’ll all be better off. So we must do what we can do today—even if it’s a small gesture—to help thread the fabric of connection that we all so desperately need and desire.
The world will feel a little less heavy each time we do.
Author: Leah Carol
Image: Courtesy of author; Redd Angelo/Unsplash
Editor: Nicole Cameron