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© 2019 by Anthony Alvarado

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Human Connection Matters More Than Ever

The Need for Social Connection.


“Social connection improves physical health and mental and emotional well-being.” -The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.


Secure social connections have been proven to be just as critical as staying active, getting enough sleep, and eating right. By deepening relationships, people can lower their levels of stress, depression, increase self-esteem, trust, and empathy towards others and themselves.


Being loved, cared for, and feeling valued is essential when it comes to strengthening social connectedness. But what happens when we lack these interpersonal connections? I recently traveled to Texas in hopes to find out more.


There, in Plainview, I met with youth recovery community leaders from eight different regions across the state. The impact that groups like ACCEPT and that of the Central Plains Center; the rural counties initiative for resiliency and recovery, were making was inspiring. Collectively, all these groups served over three thousand youth, across their home state, by providing peer services that are effectively meeting youth where they are at. This support is helping young people, and their families, build life-changing connections within their communities. This is an excellent example of individuals who value relationship building greatly as instrumental to overcoming volatile issues within their neighborhoods.


Disconnection Drives Addiction


Initially, when I was invited to Texas to speak at the Youth Recovery Communities Summit, I was asked to help their group better understand the teenage drug epidemic in rural and urban communities. I often present this material, which is based off from the program impact data we have collected over the past few years. There, at this year’s summit, as a group, we went beyond the youth research and discussed how we can reduce stigma by changing what we say; getting to one of the root causes of the addiction crisis that we see today.


As we dug deeper, it was clear that the power of relationships and personal testimonies were key motivators that inspired individuals to seek change in their lives; I was no different. Whether that would be during times of active addiction, deep depression, extreme anxiety, or while experiencing things like toxic stress, the support I had made all the difference. This community of leaders and those they served, were no different. We all strive from the healthy relationships that we had in each other’s lives.


For many, it makes sense. The less human connection we have, the more we suffer. Internally and externally, we become slightly crippled over time. The disconnection, or isolation that people are experiencing today is a root cause of addiction, suicide, and other social crisis’s. When we dare to come together, though, especially in times of need, is when healing can start to take place. It is within these safe spaces that we often receive the support, affirmation, understanding, and guidance that we need.


The Value of Human Connection


The human connection we have with others, and ourselves gives us a sense of belonging and acceptance. It brings value to our lives. Something worth fighting for. This was proven as we broke off into small groups. There I facilitated group discussions around how we can go from unwell to well. For two hours, I had more in-depth conversations with each group, helping them better identify with their value system. Through a series of questions, people briefly described who they are and what they valued most in priority with the rest of their lives.


Me speaking in Plainview, Texas

The testimonies were powerful. As the connections strengthened, people started to become more vulnerable and open with their story. Many discussed how their faith or recovery was number one in their value system before anything else; even family. Because without the belief in something, a strong sense of hope, the rest didn’t seem possible. The same with recovery. I could see the eyes widening, along with their smiles, as individuals gave examples of how they were living out their values today. It was great hearing some share how discussions like these, those around why connection and values matter, strengthened the relationships within this collective group. For example, one of the leaders talked about working with their colleagues for years, but that day, they found out so many things they didn’t know about each other just by asking the right questions. I love this, and it’s something I try to take everywhere I go; the power of showing up and actively listening to others.


Connection Builds Community


By working together, we were able to educate each other on how to go from unwell to well; strengthening human relationships was deemed vital. Reflecting on it today, it’s clear that when we resolve to take better care of ourselves, we can face our fears more often, step into our values, follow our priorities, and build relationships that help you through all walks in life. We all can be grateful for those who have been there for us. When we take the time to build relationships, we are building a community. When we make a community, through quality human connection, we help each other heal. When we as individuals become better, our neighborhood does as well. That my friends, is the simple, but profound answer, to many problems of the world today; human connection.


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