This past year has been a challenge to many. When our contact became limited, we found out how much we took being with others for granted, and how much we need it. Isolation increased how sad, depressed, and anxious we were already feeling before the pandemic. Recently, I relistened to Johann Hari’s TED talk on depression and anxiety. One of the key points he makes is about connection; focusing on “we” instead of “me” to improve our mood and outlook about life. I couldn’t agree more.
Connection is critical. Unfortunately, our society focuses on “me”, on wealth and owning stuff, and on the social media perception of happiness instead of true enjoyment of life. All of this plus the pandemic have taken away from the real connection we crave.
I believe this is why many have, ironically, chosen to be part of groups focused on hate and separation. As Richard Rohr wrote, “Love grounds us by creating focus, direction, motivation, even joy—and if we don’t find these things in love, we usually will try to find them in hate.” We want to feel a sense of belonging and community. Hate groups and cults feed off our desire to be part of something bigger. Focusing on hate versus love is the easier and more natural route for many of us.
Of course, there are more positive ways to make connections. I find that supporting others can help me feel connected and minimize my self-focused depression. I am blessed to support those in job transition, those seeking work-life balance, and others who desire to live a sober life. Supporting others gives me the connection I need. Providing service to others is one of the most selfish acts I do as it not only gives me the joy of connection, but also the added side benefit that the advice or support I give to others is often what I need to hear myself.
Making real human connections, not just social media interactions, is also critical. We have become a society with the ability to communicate around the world instantaneously, and the inability to make real true connections. For me, every interaction has again become priceless. Before, especially in my Type-A days, each interaction was a means to an end, a checkbox to tick bringing me closer to the achievement I was pursing. Today, I cherish the wave from a neighbor, the good afternoon greeting of the store clerk, and the phone call with an old friend. Every chance to look in someone’s eyes and make a real connection is seized upon as much as I can.
On those days when I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and want to isolate to soak in my pain and malaise, I choose to instead go against my desire to disconnect and make an active effort to interact with everyone I can. When I can make this switch, I know my mood is positively affected.
As you go through your day, be present as much as you can. Connect, don’t isolate. Make the most of every interactive. See how your mood is lightened and be grateful.