Have you thought about how connected you are feeling lately? Have you been too busy to stop and check-in with yourself about it? It’s so easy to get caught up in responsibilities, following schedules and the doing of life, that we lose sight of the importance of connection.
Connection is really important.
Connection is about feeling alive and present, it’s a natural state of being.
The ways in which we feel connected can happen differently for different people. It’s less about what we are doing, and more about how we are feeling. And it’s incredibly good for stress reduction. In Glow15, I walk you through a scientifically-backed 15-day program to reduce the harmful stress in your life, while activating autophagy (the self–cleaning process that is constantly occurring on a cellular level). Your autophagy is that’s prompted in part by beneficial, anti-aging stress that is actually good for your cells.
Reducing the kind of stress that robs you of your health and vitality is one of the best things you can do for yourself. It’s nearly impossible for you to be in a biological state of openness, connection and feeling good while simultaneously suffering the effects of chronic stress, pressure and fear.
The good thing is, the more you do the things that help you to feel connected, the more you strengthen yourself.
If you need a reboot on feeling connected, here are some ideas to inspire you:
Spend Time Outside in Nature: It could be hiking in the woods or time spent walking along a beach that restores you. Research shows the brain produces more alpha waves — the state of being calm yet focused and alert — when surrounded by natural settings. Forest Bathing, popular in Japan has been studied for its physiological effects on subjects after spending time in the woods. Results showed that just 30 minutes of being surrounded by trees reduced participant’s cortisol levels, pulse rate and blood pressure. It’s essential to find ways to reduce the chronic stress that can wreak havoc on your immune system, inhibit autophagy and more rapidly age your cells.
It’s not all or nothing though. Please don’t overlook the small opportunities to let the natural world restore you. If all you have is a few minutes, take time to listen to a bird sing its song or take a short walk in a scenic area.
Be Honest with Your Feelings: Get in touch with how you are truly feeling and practice expressing it to the people in your life who are important to you. Be gentle with yourself and others as you navigate communicating uncomfortable feelings. Consider working with a coach or a counselor to support you while you learn and practice this important life skill.
Unexpressed feelings create static in your life. When there is stuff in the way — unspoken feelings and thoughts that you’re afraid to share — it creates a barrier to connection because you’re preoccupied with what you’re not sharing. Over time, this emotional stress adds up and can cause inflammation and accelerated aging.
Choose Activities You Love: Whether it’s quilting, painting, playing music, writing, bike riding or rock climbing — it’s not about what you’re doing, it’s about how you’re feeling when you’re doing it.
You’ll know it’s helping you to feel more connected if you are totally engaged in the activity — something called the “flow state.” Flow is the state of being where you are fully immersed in what you are doing with a sense of energized focus, and such joy that you lose sense of time and place.
And while it’s not always possible to take the time to fully immerse yourself in something you are utterly passionate about, practice building micro-moments throughout your day, where you take time to breathe, enjoy and feel connection in the moment. One of the easiest ways I do this is with a cup of my favorite tea.
Nurture Your Relationships: Sharing honestly with a trusted friend can enhance your feeling of support, being cared for and feeling connected. Prioritize these relationships in your life and nurture these bonds by offering the same space to listen and pay attention to a friend in need.
Okinawans of Japan live in one of the world’s Blue Zones, hot spots around the globe that are famous for experiencing a higher quality of life and increased longevity. One reason for this is they practice the tradition of Moai, where they experience the support of a group of lifelong friends who are there for each other from emotional support to financial, health and spiritual matters. It’s like having friendships so close they are considered family. Take a tip from these experts in longevity and really make time for your friends and loved ones.
Take Care of Your Body and Physical Health: Unexpressed emotions create mental and emotional static that is a barrier to feeling connected. Inflammation, poor nutrition and oxidative stress in our cells create barriers to the healthy signals we need to make proper neurotransmitters, hormones and a healthy, happy microbiome. Inflammation in your body hinders your body’s ability to feel calm, relaxed and connected. Caring for your body is a form of self-care that will not only reduce inflammation and activate your autophagy but will also allow you the space to feel connected, present and in love with your life.
Connection is really about creating the space within yourself to feel this natural state of being. Anything that can help put you in a state of ease and well-being will set you up for feeling connected.
You can nurture your feelings of connection through meditation as well. It can reduce chronic stress, provide clarity, sharper focus and peace in your life. You’ll also sleep better, reduce your risk of chronic illness and have better control of your emotions.
So, whether you spend quality time with others or quality time by yourself, experiment with what helps you feel more connected. Those moments can be small changes that create lasting improvements in your health.