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The Social Connection Mindset

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Connection is highly important for your brain.

On the actual, physical, gooey brain matter level, neural connections are what keep your life flowing and making sense. Without those connections, things would be too fragmented to support your health.

But on a social level, where other humans come into play, connection is also highly important.

Lack of connection in childhood can lead to behavioral disorders and addiction. Lack of connection in adulthood can lead to loneliness, which is a leading cause of early death.

Our brains, and therefor bodies work best when they are connected, both on the level of connecting within, but also being connected to the world outside of us.

I recently mentioned in one of my coaching emails (sign up here) that during the pandemic I stopped connecting as much (as we all did), and I fell into the habit of isolating myself. Isolating myself led to some mental health issues of my own, and played into the belief that I had to handle life by myself. This tapped into patterns created in my brain in childhood along the lines of needing to be strong enough to stand on my own. Self isolation has been part of my identity for a long time.

As pandemic restrictions lifted, even though part of me was excited to connect with friends again, another part of me felt dread at the prospect. Connecting would mean catching up. Catching up would mean talking about life and reliving all the negativity of the past few years.

At least that what I was telling myself. But I know how profoundly important connecting with my fellow humans is, especially when it comes to brain health and longevity.

So what’s an introvert, ambivert, or even an extrovert to do when social isolation has become a habit?

At the foundation of isolating behavior is thought and mindset, so that needs to be tackled first.


The Social Connection Mindset

Going back to something I wrote above, there’s been a thought my brain has been entertaining that is getting in the way of social connection: Catching up is going to be exhausting.

While true that baring my emotional soul might be exhausting, my brain is making an incorrect assumption. It’s assuming that I’ll HAVE to bare my soul when reconnecting with friends. But that’s totally not true.

I get to control how much I reveal about what is happening in my personal life, and I get to do it at the pace that feels supportive for me.

This brings up a different belief that I think many people hold, which is that true connection has to be deep. Deep connection can be highly fulfilling, but it’s not the only way to get a connection fix that will prompt the release of beneficial chemicals in your brain. Sometimes just “shootin’ the shit”, as they say, can be highly enjoyable and create more than enough connection. It may not create intimate connection, but it still signals the brain that we are in a social group, we are hanging with a tribe, even if it’s momentary.

Knowing that light-hearted banter can count in creating meaningful connection is a mindset shift for me. What about you? If you’re finding it hard to muster the desire to connect right now, what is your brain thinking about it that is putting the brakes on? Maybe those thoughts sound something like:

  • I’m too tired
  • It won’t be worth it
  • It sounds like too much work

Those thoughts won’t create any incentive to connect, so you have to task your brain to come up with thoughts that will create enough of an incentive to facilitate connection. For me those thought might sound something like:

  • It’s healthy for me to connect with my friends, and it’s healthy for them too
  • I always feel better after I hang out with (insert name)
  • Being with my friends will fill me up
  • I love people watching
  • What else am I going to do with my time?

That last one is actually pretty motivating for me. I’ve been asking myself that question quite a bit, because if I leave it to the hedonistic character in my brain, I’ll just binge watch a streaming service, and that never leads to me feeling better than I did before.

Being willing to, and creating the desire (even if it’s just a spark) to connect starts in your thinking mind. You’ve got to use your brain as a tool to drive you to do the things that will benefit your brain.

As a certified health and certified life coach I am skilled at helping people create the mindset and habits to enjoy their lives more and support the physical and mental health of their brains. If you’d like to explore working together you can schedule 30 minutes to connect with me (see what I did there?) by clicking this link to access my calendar.

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Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash