Research shows that there is a tremendous health benefit to social connectedness. And yet, with our busy schedules, social connections can be pretty far down on our “to do” lists. It's easy to let days, weeks, even months slip by without seeing people who are important to us. Our culture tends to place value on hard work, success, and wealth, so it’s no surprise some of us do not set aside enough time for social connection when we think security lies in material things rather than other people. Our overall health and wellness depends on us placing equal value on our social connectedness.
Is it time for us as a society to redefine what success means? To slow down and unplug from technology and from "life" to rediscover what truly matters...what really matters to YOU. How about if we each set aside time every day to disconnect from technology in order to reconnect with ourselves or with others face-to-face? What would that feel like? How much space would it open up in our lives for ourselves and for others? I love my technology, but it can seriously consume huge chunks of my day! It can feel liberating to not have technology next to me, to not have that pull to look at it and be "connected" and yet not truly connected.
What about disconnecting from our jobs? How easy is it for us to unplug from our jobs, our careers, and plug into the other parts of our life? Its become the norm to bring work home and spend evening hours and weekends continuing to work. Some may even say you are lazy if you are not pushing yourself to work more in the evenings and weekends. That you are not motivated enough.
How about all of the running we do as parents? We busy ourselves taking the kids (and ourselves) from one structured activity to another. Our calendar is filled with running here, there and everywhere. I spend a chunk of my day driving in circles from home to dance, home to the high school, etc.
I was recently having a conversation with a group of women about how we have so many structured activities these days for our kids that they no longer know how to entertain themselves when they do have down time. They rely on technology and other forms of stimulation to help pass the time and to "entertain" themselves. They don't engage in face-to-face connections or use their creativity to come up with activities to occupy their time. It bothers me when my kids have their friends over and pretty soon I see them all sitting there looking at their phones, not engaging with one another at all. Begging the question...are we even connecting with one another when we are in each other's presence?
Who are those special people in your life? The ones who consistently love you and support you? Have you done a good job of staying connected to them? How about society as a whole? Are you connected? Do you feel a sense of community of belonging? Do you know your neighbors, or your fellow church members, or the other parents at the soccer game? Sometimes all it takes is setting our phone down and looking up and engaging with our surroundings. Being curious about the people who are right in front of us. Learning who they are and sharing who we are. Just a little effort goes a long way, and doesn't even take up much time.
On one hand, I want to say that I've worked hard to maintain balance and keep social connections as a high priority in my life, but on the other hand it's really not that hard at all. I love my family and I love my friends and I look forward to spending quality time with them, I honor that time. I work to set boundaries around that time and hold it as sacred. It's not always easy to block it off and keep it blocked off, but it's a priority for me and I can make it happen. It makes me a better person to be connected to them and to share my life and love with them.
What I personally want to work on is to shut down technology on a more regular basis and be more present in my daily life with my kids and with my husband. I also want to look up from my phone and be more present when I am standing waiting for my child, or when I'm in line at the grocery store.
How are you doing at being socially connected? Do you make it a priority? Do you think as a society that we are more or less connected than what we were 20 years ago? What changes can you make to ramp up your connectedness? I would love to get your feedback, comment below or send me an email.