Meaningful connection and why it matters

Two women at a table,  both with black hair, looking at a computer and laughing together.

Hands up who wants to improve their mental wellbeing? You’re in luck because, there are so many places to start. You could improve your sleep, see a counsellor or overhaul your diet. But there’s one important factor we consistently overlook in the wellness conversation – and that’s meaningful connection.

I’m not sure why this one seldom features. Or if it does, why we focus only on romance. Especially since loneliness is said to be as detrimental to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. I suspect it’s because meaningful connection doesn’t lend itself to consumerism. There’s no workout wear, lavender bath oil or high protein foods to buy in conjunction with it.

Truly connecting with someone takes time and also a certain level of vulnerability. But it is worth the trouble and temporary discomfort. A recent review of a number of studies tells us that social connections are one of the most reliable predictors of a long, healthy, and satisfying life.

Here’s how to truly connect

  1. You’ve probably heard, may times, that finding a shared interest is the key to connection. But here’s a caveat -it has to be a real shared interest. A proper all-consuming passion, not a way to pass the time. And it’s best if you meet regularly over at least six months, thereby giving a real chance for proper friendship to flourish. Research states it takes about 50 hours of time to make a friend and about 200 to make a meaningful connection. So it’s out with the one off cookery lesson and in with the year long cordon bleu course.
Three women in a group standing up and laughing in a friendly way together.

2. There’s a counselling term often used when discussing empathy, and it’s called frame of reference. Entering into someone else’s frame of reference means making an effort to see the world exactly as that person does. It’s deliberately withholding judgement, and imagine having already walked a mile in their shoes. Opening yourself up to meaningful connections, often means dropping critical voices and looking beyond surface appearances to see the person underneath. Doing this may not always be easy, but it is the way real friendships are forged.

3. Giving your undivided time and attention is probably one of the kindest things you can do for a person. And it really is the best way to make someone feel valued. So, if you’re looking to make a meaningful connection, then make sure you’re in a place where unhurried conversations can take place. This can mean going to the park with colleagues or inviting school run mums for a coffee. Anything to extend the relationship beyond the confines of the office or class drop off, and enable them to thrive.

And once you have meaningful connections in your life, the benefits are numerous. Better health, higher levels of wellbeing, lower levels of stress and even a greater life expectancy

If you want to read more about developing friendships and relationships, then I can recommend How to Know a Person by David Brooks.

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