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The Importance of Connection

In mental health, there are various different viewpoints about what principles cause human beings to function at their optimal.  While most of these different theories have some good to offer, one in particular encompasses the human experience at every level imaginable.  This is the scientifically proven fact that all human beings crave connection with others, and function poorly without it. 

In the middle of a global pandemic, there has been a lot of concern about youth, in particular, and how social distancing has affected their sense of well-being.  With so many at home doing virtual learning, close peer contact has been limited at best.  Regardless of age, it seems that more and more people are struggling with anxiety and depression, in particular, due to isolation from other human beings. 

Although human contact in general is of utmost importance, there is one thing that keeps children at their best, in spite of pandemics, social distancing, and virtual learning.  That one thing is the connection they have with primary caregivers.  When a primary caregiver is emotionally available for children, it is an extremely powerful antidote for any other missing factors in their lives.

This holds true for adults as well.  When human beings have meaningful connection with others, it provides a lifeline that empowers and enables them to function at their best, even when circumstances in their lives are less than ideal. 

With all the stressors of the world during this time, from concerns about health and education, to worries about culture and politics, having strong personal connections with others is the very most important thing any person can do for themselves and for their family members. 

How do we keep these emotional connections strong and powerful? 

First, it is important to be available emotionally for our loved ones.  There is nothing more important to be done than to listen to our loved ones and to take time to really see and hear one another.  Watching a movie together is great, but sitting down to look through old photo albums and reminisce is better.  Checking a child’s grades is good parenting, but checking on how he/she is feeling and finding out what they think about life is far better.  Calling to check on grandma’s health is vitally important, but asking her about her life experiences, and simply listening, is of far more benefit. 

In the midst of all the things that human beings worry about during times like these, most of those things are of little lasting value, in the big picture of a lifespan.  Yet, connections between generations and between loved ones are what will help humanity survive every other stressor in life.  It is important now, more than ever before, to feed our connections and to prioritize them above all else.

Connection Tips:

  • Listen more than you speak.
  • Try to feel what the other person must be feeling as they express themselves. 
  • Be curious about the experiences of loved ones. 
  • Ask your loved ones if your perception of their feelings is accurate or not.
  • Focus on the emotional content of conversations with others—not just events but how they feel about them. 
  • Share your own emotional responses with those you love. 
  • Become comfortable with differences of opinion—you can love and still disagree.
  • Instead of assuming motive, ask about your loved one’s feelings.

Written by Melanie McLeain, LMSW, Bilingual Clinical Therapist at our outpatient clinic, Behavioral Health Services of Arkansas

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