Resiliencies are the skill sets and mindsets needed to successfully navigate the challenges of life. They can be cultivated and learned throughout a lifetime. But, before we learn anything, our brain is already wired for survival. Our automatic response system is designed to promote life sustaining activities. When the brain detects a threat, it sends a signal to our body causing it to gear up for a fight or flight response. Fight, flight and freeze are commonly known survival responses.
However, there is a fourth survival response that, in today’s world, may be the most beneficial of them all. Social connectivity is both a powerful resiliency and a life sustaining survival activity.
We now have much research evidence to show that social connectivity leads to longevity of life. But, it seems our brains have always known this to be true. Just like our fight and flight response, in times of stress, our body gears up to connect by releasing a stress hormone known as oxytocin. Oxytocin, fine tunes our relationship instincts causing us to crave connection and motivates us to seek support. It also increases empathy causing us to be more likely to help someone else in need.
In addition to motivating us to connect, oxytocin is also produced when we connect. This neural hormone promotes wellbeing and stress recovery in our body. Just as there are two sides to oxytocin, social connecting can be both a survival response and a resiliency that can be cultivated. As a resiliency, consider the following benefits of social connectivity:
- Added Resources: Life’s challenges require both internal and external resources to meet and overcome. Social connectivity helps to expand our external assets. This includes more than obvious tangible resources. Social connections expand our knowledge base; they offer access to new skills and they can provide a broader menu of options for solutions to problems.
- Emotional Support: It is probably not surprising to anyone that studies show social connectivity alleviates both depression and anxiety. Our social connections help us to feel a sense of purpose and belonging that are both powerful human motivators. Whether you are experiencing good times or difficulties, there is little more validating than the attentive ear of a concerned friend.
- A New Mindset: Social connections expose us to different perspectives that can challenge a stuck mindset. Seeing the world through someone else’s lens can help us to let go of unhelpful beliefs such as self-entitlement or blaming. Recognizing the challenges that others face and even overcome make it harder to believe that our own problems are insurmountable. Contributing solutions to problems other than our own can help us adopt mindsets of responsibility and humility.
Of course, social connectivity is about more than having 1000 plus Facebook friends. Social connectivity is about quality relationships and meaningful community interactions. There are many ways to increase our social connectivity and cultivate this important resiliency. Here are a few ideas:
- Go to lunch with a friend.
- Host a neighborhood porch party.
- Participate in a walk-a-thon or some other fundraising event.
- Join a book club or start a movie club
- Volunteer! Either call a local organization or sign up for a volunteer match program online.
- Schedule a reoccurring fun activity (like game night) with close friends or family.
- Pick up a new hobby and invite others to join you or find a group that already exists.
- Phone a friend or relative that you haven’t talked to in a while.
- Invite someone to attend a community or cultural event with you.
- Make it a point to smile and greet the people you encounter each day.
There are many other ways to boost this super resiliency. What ways have you found to connect?