Finding Love Right Where You Are
A few days ago, as my husband and daughter were working together on a family project, with music playing in the background, the song “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran. Thy lyrics “Maybe we found love right where we are” were playing just as I snapped this picture. I was touched by so much in this moment, a father with his daughter; one generation teaching the next; family spending time together just doing something—not watching television, or eyes glued to screens, but transmitting knowledge down the ages, as our fathers and mothers have done for time immemorial—in short, making deep, lifelong, connections[i].
There is a great deal of literature in the social science and medical community going around right now on the subject of community and interpersonal connections. The lack of connection has been heavily implicated in addiction as well as mental health, chronic inflammation and increased antisocial behavior and violence. Stronger connections can lead to increased longevity, higher self-esteem, stronger immune systems and improved rates of anxiety and depression[ii].
In his seminal Ted Talk, “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong”, the journalist Johann Hari brought to light years of research which had gone against the common idea that the opposite of addiction was “sobriety”. Instead, he argued the opposite of addiction is social connection. It turns out, that feeling deeply lonely and socially disconnected is more harmful to our health than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure![iii]
We can argue about where all that starts. Some people say at home, some people say that our increasing reliance on electronic, rather than personal, means of communication are to blame, and some people blame the sheer speed of the modern lifestyle. I don’t think it matters, however, where our lack of connection starts. I think what matters is what we do about it. Here’s what I recommend:
1. Join something. It can be a church, a biking group, a volunteer organization, it doesn’t matter. Just make it something where you can feel supported and support others in turn. Being important to others matters, too.
2. Put down the electronic, the remote and, yes—from time to time—the book. Go to coffee with a friend. Invite a co-worker to your house for dinner with your family. Invite your pastor over. A few years ago my husband and I invited a pastor-intern over to our house for dinner. He had been working at our church for a year, and we were the first ones to invite him for a meal!
3. Slow down. Figure out what activities you can get rid of. Instead of bragging about how busy you are, figure out how you can brag about how you have time to relax and do things outside of work and obligations. How can you spend time with your kids, your young family members or your aging parents and grandparents?
4. Play. Yes, you’re a grownup—and you can play. Go climb something, or play a video-game, or play catch in the park. Play a board game that makes you laugh, but do it with someone else.
5. Get a hobby you can do with someone else. Build models, play a musical instrument—I recommend the great teachers at Coastal Music Studios for lessons—or go do some art—a great place for that is A Colorful Universe. Again, go do things with other people.
Maybe it does seem like the world is growing further apart even as it grows closer together, but the truth is we’re evolved to be in a tight-knit small group where we know everyone, everyone knows us and everyone knows what their role is supposed to be. We’re supposed to matter to one another, to rely on each other and to be there for one another. That’s a good thing, and, if we’re intentional about it, we can get it back—and have fun doing it!