With so many things competing for our attention, it is difficult to know whether to prioritise our home, career, family or ourselves.
I love this research from a 75-year Harvard study that re-enforces the power of connectedness. The Grant and Glueck study dates back to 1939 and tracked the physical and emotional well-being of two groups: 456 poor men growing up in Boston from 1939 to 2014 (the Grant Study), and 268 male graduates from Harvard’s classes of 1939-1944 (the Glueck study).
The study’s main focus was whether aspects of childhood and adult experiences would predict the health and well-being in later life. Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development concludes one thing surpasses all the rest: “The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
So, it’s not how far you’ve climbed in your career, it’s not your nett worth or how many social media followers you have. It is the quality of these relationships that matters – how much vulnerability & depth exists, how safe you feel, being seen for who you truly are and truly seeing others. Feeling like you belong helps relax your nervous system, helps your brain stay healthier for longer and reduces both emotional and physical pain. The data also clearly shows that those who feel lonely are more likely to have declining health younger and die earlier.
“It’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship,” says Waldinger. “It’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.”
George Vallient, who directed the study from 1972 to 2004, stated that it is vitally important to also learn how to cope with life so that you don’t push love away. According to Dr Brene Brown, we learn ways to protect ourselves from vulnerability when we are children. We put on armour by using our thoughts, emotions and behaviours as weapons and we learn how to make ourselves scarce by withdrawing and even disappearing.
The key to building up great relationships is to take personal growth seriously so you are available for connection. Make yourself open to love, and if you find you are struggling, connect with a good therapist or grief counsellor, join a support group or invest in a workshop.
Below are our top 3 tips for nurturing and building an internal sense of connection:
1. Give, share, support and do acts of service and kindness for others
Compassion and volunteering has huge health benefits and creates a sense of connection and purpose.
2. Take care of yourself
Stress is linked to high self-focus and therefore a lower sense of connection. If you are happy from within, you are also more likely to feel connected, to reach out to others, and to make the world a happier and sunnier place.
3. Ask for help
People are willing to help us but if we don’t ask, they assume we don’t need help. Reach out to those around you; asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness!
“Vulnerabiity sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never a weakness.”- Brene Brown
What are the things you do to build meaningful relationships with the people around you?
Tags: authenticity, connectedness, happy, health, vulnerability