Humans are social creatures, yet we are isolating ourselves more and more, which is leading to feelings of loneliness and depression. Brene Brown, a well-known social scientist and research professor at the University of Houston, has spent the last two decades studying vulnerability, shame, courage and empathy. Her TED Talk ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ is a fabulous watch if you want to check it out.
“Connection, the ability to feel connected, neurobiologically that’s how we are wired, it’s why we are here.”
Brene tells a story about a village where the women would go down to the river to wash their clothes together. Whilst washing they would chat, share stories, learn from each other, connect over similar experiences and problems. The village then introduced washing machines and, not so longer after, there was a breakout of depression. This was due to the lack of social interaction, doing things together and losing their sense of community.
In her book, ‘Braving the Wilderness’, Brene says that loneliness can affect our life expectancy in the same way that smoking 15 cigarettes a day can do!
Oxytocin, commonly known as the ‘love hormone, and the essential chemical for social bonding, is not only released when we do the things that make us feel good, but also when we feel stressed. So, when we are stressed our bodies are physiologically requesting that we reach out to those around us and get support.
In ‘Braving the Wilderness’ Brene discusses our innate need for connection and sense of belonging. Finding the courage to stand alone and be ourselves, so that we don’t feel the need to ‘fit in’, at the same time as fulfilling the need to feel connected to the people around us, both with friends and with strangers.
Shame, fear and feeling vulnerable prevents us from achieving this as we constantly ask ourselves “am I worthy of connection?” Brene Browns research has shown that “the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging, believe that they are worthy of love and belonging – that’s it.”
Therefore, let’s start reaching out. In those moments when we are feeling stressed, lonely or blue, let’s not hide away. Let’s connect with our friends regularly, consistently and even more so when we need support. We don’t need to be at our best, our friends are totally fine with us being imperfect. We are all imperfect and we deserve to be loved and feel like we belong.