18 Jun The Power of Human Contact
What comes to mind when you think about reducing stress? Is it practising mindfulness? Or getting better sleep? Perhaps you consider seeing a therapist? Of course, all these are fundamental to your emotional health, and I refer to them regularly in my workshops. But an area that is often neglected is the need for connection and socialisation. And I am referring to the face-to-face kind, not the digital kind.
If we travel back to when humans first walked this planet, being part of a tribe was fundamental to the survival of the individual. Being alone was dangerous and resulted in death. Your tribe fed you, protected you from threats such as wild animals and other tribes, provided shelter, and helped you to raise your offspring. Your tribe equalled safety and companionship.
Loneliness is endemic in our current society and it generates the same bodily response as being physically attacked. The difference is that a physical attack ceases, while loneliness can permeate your life for many years, and this can have huge physical and psychological impact. We live in a society that is more connected than ever before, but we are also lonelier than any other society in recorded history. We can connect with people online all over the world in seconds, but these interactions cannot compare with the feel-good factor of spending time with friends face-to-face, and the greatest gift you can give a friend is your full attention.
Humans need touch, physical proximity and the enhanced communication of body language. When you feel safe amongst a group of like-minded people, your body releases Oxytocin, the social bonding hormone. Oxytocin has healing properties which can reduce the physical symptoms of stress such as high blood pressure and cortisol levels. Oxytocin is also present in childbirth – it promotes bonding and creates the sensation of wellbeing. When you receive psychological support the human connection also releases this wonderful hormone.
What connection do you need?
Everyone is different. For some people a loud, busy party is heaven, while for others it’s hell. Find people who make you feel good and provide the opportunity for you to offer something back as well. If you love reading, you could join a book club or a writing group. If you like to exercise, running clubs, climbing clubs or exercise classes are a great way to bond and laugh together. These groups often provide a good social scene too. Perhaps you like to garden, you could join a local gardening group to help make your community look more colourful. You could volunteer to read to elderly people or children. You could sign up to a class to learn something new. There are infinite choices out there and people waiting to experience what you can offer. Your local council, library or Citizens Advice Bureau can point you in the right direction, or take a look on local notice boards.
Is there is someone you know who could benefit with you connecting with them? I would love to hear how you connect with people.