Zen and the Art of Self-Regulation: Social connection

Zen and the Art of Self-Regulation: Social connection

We are hardwired to seek the herd. Research shows that social connection and support is the NUMBER ONE PREDICTOR of longevity, happiness, and life satisfaction.

Human connection is the sense of closeness and belongingness we experience when we have supportive relationships with those around us. It means we feel valued, seen, and heard. There’s no judgment, and we feel stronger and nourished after engaging with the people in ‘our tribe’.  (Read more about holding space here.)

Connect or die!

Social connection can lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and improve our immune systems. On the other hand, social isolation contributes to depression, insomnia, and cognitive decline and is more harmful than obesity, heart disease and smoking. A lack of social connection gives you a whopping 50 percent higher mortality rate from most diseases.

In my work as a coach, I often meet people, who are – often unbeknownst to themselves – really suffering from a lack of social support. Some are flat out lonely. Others are languishing because they don’t have a sounding board, don’t get feedback, and are living in what feels like an echo chamber.

Lack of support is an issue I engage with as a first, even if they come for “career coaching” because feeling supported comes before everything else.

Connection is quite simply the linchpin of physical and psychological health.

If you are a dancing queen (or king!), you need a dance floor

I once helped a client with the usual career-coaching themes: We identified his values, I helped him write job applications and prepare for job interviews… He quickly got a great job, just suited for his personality and wishes.

But the great, happy, big win was, that he also felt inspired to take up his swing dance class that he had neglected for years. He rekindled old friendships. He saw how isolation was not serving him, and he overcame his awkwardness and consciously engaged more with the world. Yay!

We need our tribe

Another client was going through health-related problems, and it was a heavy and shameful burden to carry all by herself. I encouraged her to find people with the same illness; Facebook groups, patient-groups etc. to surround herself with people who understood the intrinsic challenges of living with this disease.

We all need our tribe. We need to belong. We need to be reflected back.

So, seriously: Talk to a friend. Make a friend if you don’t have one. Drum up a tribe. Seek out connection. It is the best way to regulate your emotions and calibrate yourself.

It makes you live longer and happier.