A recent article by a prominent news agency grabbed my attention, “Friend zone: why we all long to belong”.
Author Emily Esfahani Smith discusses how belonging–in a relationship or a group–gives us meaning, and that love and care from a parent and/or caregiver are essential for healthy development. In fact, addiction, stress and childhood specialist Dr. Gabor Maté writes that without adequate love, affection, and support during our early development the brain and body become predisposed to addiction which becomes a method for finding the connection we desperately need.
Earlier in my life I believed that I didn’t need to belong. I participated in sports solely because it was fun–or so I thought. The people were merely necessary participants in the process of getting my adrenaline hits. I was wrong. Unfortunately, it took three serious events in my life in order to learn this lesson.
What really struck me in Smith’s publication was that while “close relationships are critical for a meaningful life, they are not the only important social bonds we need to cultivate.” Researchers describe “high-quality connections”, short interactions between strangers, people we only know at the superficial level, or even those with whom we already have a deep, personal bond.
I’ve found this to be quite true in my own life. In fact, I seek out high-quality connections because it’s in those moments that I feel alive. There’s compassion, loving energy, joy, fun, belonging, bonding, excitement, and at times a warm fuzzy feeling. Yet, fully experiencing this kinship requires that I also foster positive connections with myself: I do this via daily meditation, cooking and eating healthy food, yoga, fresh air, and lots of aerobic exercise. Spending time in nature, both being quiet and with activities, is another way for me to feel connected with myself and the universe. I’ve also discovered that those moments need to include time alone and time with others.
“We can’t control whether someone will make a high-quality connection with us, but we can all choose to initiate or reciprocate one.”
I invite you to notice the effects that short-term interactions have in your body, mind, and spirit. Give attention and consideration to what happens in your heart. Perhaps you’ll discover that what you give feeds you as well.