The top 10 ways to benefit from connecting IRL.

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The heat of the sun on your back.

The fresh air in your lungs.

The impeccable views and sounds of nature and life buzzing around.

Whether I’m out in the great outdoors on an inspiring hike, dipping my toes in the sea, on a run into town (typically pushing a stroller with over-sized children in it), or even simply sitting on the outside patio at my local coffee shop, there is something about getting out of the house and feeling the energy around you.

However, all to often I’m a homebody.

Sure, there’s the laundry to do, the dishes to wash, the floors to clean, the piles of school artwork to recycle, the side hustle to grind through, yet sifting through those I find excuses for not wanting to put on real clothes and leave the house.

There is a time and place for comfort, yet we need to create the space to get out and connect, both with nature and with other human beings!

In a recent newsletter (you can sign-up on my website) I sent to my health coaching clients, I discussed the four pillars of health:

  • Sleep

  • Nutrition

  • Exercise

  • Connection

Today I want to focus on connection.

We so often dismiss it as a necessary element in our overall health; much like sleep, we’re fooled by the illusion that we don’t need it to thrive.

Numerous studies have shown that a lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.

Time and time again, it’s been proven that social connection improves physical health and mental and emotional well-being. When a strong social connection is maintained, we:

  • increased chance of longevity by 50%

  • strengthen our immune system

  • recover from disease faster

Brene Brown, has said, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don't function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

Regardless of what where you fall within the spectrum of introvert or extrovert, we are made to connect. We are social creatures by nature.

Shiny objects tend to lure us, deceiving us into believing the fancy cars, the money, the power, the big homes and lavish vacations will fulfill us. While those objects aren’t inherently bad, we need to be conscious of how we’re using them to make us feel. This also tends to flesh itself out in the way we treat our body – whether we binge on food or starve ourselves or put up silly boundaries around the “good” and “bad” foods we eat, even over exercising to make an amends for one thing or another. In the end, all of this will disappoint us.

All along we’ve been looking for meaningful connections - relationships.

It is a fundamental human need to belong, to be accepted, and loved.

You are not too sensitive or too much to want these things. They are good, natural desires!

In fact, people who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression, higher self-esteemgreater empathy, are more trusting and cooperative and, therefore, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them.

Those are all wonderful benefits of being connected! No one should ever dismiss the power of a hug, a phone call, a date, or even a simple touch, let alone these desires.

They are good, healthy feelings.

Being present and making time for those you care about is not hard, rather putting the effort in to create the time and space can be difficult in today’s culture of finding pride in our busy-ness and independence.

Some practical tips to connect:

  1. say hello or smile at a stranger

  2. Go to local farmers market and talk to the vendors. I’ve heard the best stories from our smoked salmon vendor. As an ex-Marine World whale trainer, he has a bounty of stories to share of the tricks the whales would play on the trainers. You don’t have to spend countless hours with these people, but a weekly hello and five minute conversation reaps massive connection rewards. You feel known AND you’ve learned a thing or two.

  3. Make time with a friend (spontaneous, last minute calls are fine!) to go for a 20-minute walk or have a quick dinner.

  4. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while.

  5. Turn your phone off and talk to your family after dinner.

  6. Read a book with your kids or spouse.

  7. Go for a hike and eavesdrop on the conversations – both those nature provides as well as the other hikers!

  8. Invite your neighbors over for a seasonal treat.

  9. Grab a coworker and buy them an afternoon drink.

  10. Make small talk with anyone helping you – the cashier at the grocery store or at the coffee shop, your waitress, your kid’s teacher, the person in line behind you, etc.

These are just a few to get you started. How do you like to connect?

P.S. Don’t Google “ideas how to connect.” The only options it offers are troubleshooting tips to connect to the internet. That’s not what we’re going for here!