According to the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, social connection is crucial for improving physical health and overall well-being. In fact, it is just as vital as staying active, getting enough sleep, and eating right. By nurturing our relationships, we can effectively reduce stress and depression while boosting self-esteem, trust, and empathy for both others and ourselves.
Feeling loved, cared for, and valued is essential for fostering strong social connections. But what happens when we lack these meaningful interpersonal bonds? To explore this further, I recently traveled to Texas.
In Plainview, I had the opportunity to meet with leaders from various youth recovery communities across the state. Witnessing the inspiring work of groups like ACCEPT and the Central Plains Center, which provide peer services to over three thousand youth, I saw firsthand how these initiatives were facilitating life-changing connections within their communities. These individuals understood the significance of relationship building in overcoming the challenging issues present in their neighborhoods.
The Impact of Disconnection on Addiction
Initially, my invitation to Texas was to speak at the Youth Recovery Communities Summit and help the group gain a deeper understanding of the teenage drug epidemic in rural and urban areas. Drawing from our program's impact data collected over the years, I often present material on this topic. However, during this year's summit, we went beyond youth research and delved into reducing stigma by addressing one of the root causes of the addiction crisis we face today.
As we delved deeper into the discussion, it became clear that the power of relationships and personal testimonies were essential motivators for individuals seeking change in their lives. I could relate to this, as the support I received during times of active addiction, deep depression, extreme anxiety, or toxic stress made all the difference. The leaders I met in Texas and the people they served shared a similar experience. We all yearn for healthy relationships in our lives.
It makes sense that the less human connection we have, the more we suffer. Over time, this disconnection or isolation can gradually cripple us internally and externally. Disconnection is a root cause of addiction, suicide, and other social crises. However, when we come together, especially in times of need, healing can begin. Safe spaces provide the support, affirmation, understanding, and guidance we require.
The Value of Human Connection
The connections we form with others and ourselves give us a sense of belonging and acceptance. They bring value to our lives, something worth fighting for. This truth became evident as we broke off into small groups during the summit. I facilitated group discussions on transitioning from being unwell to well. For two hours, I engaged in profound conversations with each group, helping them identify their value systems. Through a series of questions, participants briefly described who they were and what they prioritized most in their lives.
The testimonies that emerged were powerful. As connections grew stronger, people became more vulnerable and open about their stories. Many emphasized the importance of faith or recovery as the cornerstone of their value system, even placing them above family. Without belief and a strong sense of hope, the rest seemed impossible. The same applied to recovery. I witnessed widened eyes and genuine smiles as individuals shared examples of how they were living out their values. Discussions on the significance of connection and values strengthened relationships within the group. One leader mentioned discovering things about their colleagues they had worked with for years, simply by asking the right questions. This experience reinforced my belief in the power of showing up and actively listening to others.
Connection Fosters Community
Through collaboration, we were able to educate one another on transitioning from being unwell to being well, with a focus on strengthening human relationships. Looking back, it is evident that when we prioritize self-care, we become better equipped to face our fears, align with our values, prioritize our lives, and forge supportive relationships that accompany us on our journey. Gratitude is owed to those who have been there for us. When we invest time in building relationships, we are cultivating a community. When we create a community through meaningful human connections, we help each other heal. As individuals strive for personal growth, our neighborhoods also flourish. This, my friends, is the simple yet profound answer to many of the world's problems today: human connection.