Building meaningful relations in this digital age (5 min read) – Issue #82
Illustration by Kratika Singhal
I write this newsletter from Kanha in Madhya Pradesh where I am hosting a workshop on Deep health with 14 participants. This is a workshop to train participants about tools to take care of their healthspan and raise money for the Earth Focus foundation. But the most important part of this is about making connections, meeting new friends and networking. From my last two experiences as host of Communion in Rishikesh in Dec 2022 and the first workshop at Kanha in March, I can say with hundred percent surety that these events can be a turning point in some of the participant’s lives.
In our fast-paced and interconnected world, making meaningful connections has become more important than ever. Whether in personal or professional settings, forging genuine relationships can have a profound impact on our well-being, success, and overall happiness. However, with the rise of digital communication and the increasing reliance on social media, it’s easy to overlook the significance of face-to-face interactions and the depth they bring to our connections. Your Social Health is a very important part of achieving Deep Health.
In this Newsletter, we will explore the art of making connections, the benefits it offers, and practical strategies to foster authentic relationships in both the real and virtual realms
Research increasingly shows that strong social ties are crucial to your brain health. Socializing can stimulate attention and memory, and help to strengthen neural networks. You may just be laughing and talking, but your brain is hard at work. This increase in mental activity pays off over time. Scientists have found that people with strong social ties are less likely to experience cognitive decline than people who spend most of their time alone.
The Rewards of Making Connections
The effort put into building authentic connections yields significant rewards:
Emotional Support: Genuine connections provide a support system during both joyous and challenging times. Having someone to lean on, share your thoughts and feelings with, and seek advice from can significantly enhance your well-being.
Personal Growth: Meaningful connections expose us to new ideas, perspectives, and experiences, fostering personal growth and expanding our horizons. Through connections, we learn from others, challenge our assumptions, and gain valuable insights that shape our own journey.
Collaboration and Opportunities: Building connections in professional settings opens doors to collaboration, career opportunities, and mentorship. Networking can lead to partnerships, new job prospects, and access to valuable resources or knowledge.
Happiness and Fulfilment: Meaningful connections contribute to our overall happiness and sense of fulfillment. Sharing experiences, creating memories, and celebrating successes together enriches our lives and brings a sense of belonging and purpose.
Tools to build authentic connection
Active Listening: One of the foundations of genuine connections is active listening. Paying full attention, showing empathy, and engaging in meaningful conversations demonstrate respect and understanding. Practice active listening by maintaining eye contact, asking open-ended questions, and providing supportive feedback.
Vulnerability and Authenticity: Authentic connections require vulnerability and openness. By sharing our experiences, emotions, and aspirations, we create a safe space for others to do the same. Embrace vulnerability by being authentic and genuine in your interactions, allowing deeper connections to flourish.
Shared Interests and Values: Common interests and values act as powerful catalysts for connection. Engage in activities and communities aligned with your passions, where you are likely to meet like-minded individuals. Engaging in shared experiences creates a sense of camaraderie and fosters deep connections.
Cultivating Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. By putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes, we can deepen our connections by demonstrating compassion and support. Practice empathy by actively listening, seeking to understand different perspectives, and offering kindness and support when needed.
Networking: Networking is not solely for professional purposes; it can also help us build valuable connections in various aspects of life. Attend events, conferences, or join online communities related to your interests or professional field. Engage in meaningful conversations, exchange ideas, and build relationships with individuals who share your passions or can contribute to your growth.
Maintaining Relationships: Building connections is just the first step; maintaining them requires effort and investment. Stay connected with friends, family, and professional contacts through regular communication, whether in person, through phone calls, or via digital platforms. Show interest in their lives, offer support, and celebrate their successes. Small gestures of care and appreciation can go a long way in nurturing long-lasting connections.
Illustration by Kratika Singhal
Balancing Digital and in Person connections
In today’s digital age, it’s crucial to strike a balance between online and offline connections. While social media and digital communication provide convenience and enable us to connect with individuals worldwide, they cannot fully replace the depth and richness of face-to-face interactions. Here are some tips for balancing digital and in-person connections:
Prioritize Face-to-Face Interactions: Whenever possible, make an effort to meet people in person. Schedule coffee dates, lunches, or attend social events where you can engage with others in a meaningful way. Face-to-face interactions allow for nonverbal cues, emotional connection, and a deeper understanding of each other.
Limit Screen Time: Set boundaries on your digital interactions. Designate specific times for checking social media or responding to emails, and avoid mindless scrolling. By reducing screen time, you create space for more meaningful in-person interactions.
Use Digital Platforms Purposefully: While digital platforms can’t fully replace in-person connections, they can complement and enhance them. Use platforms like video calls, online communities, or messaging apps to maintain relationships with distant friends, family, or professional contacts. However, remember to balance digital interactions with real-world experiences.
Engage in Shared Activities: Explore opportunities to engage in activities that allow for both digital and in-person connections. For example, join online interest groups or forums related to your hobbies or professional interests. These platforms can serve as a starting point for connecting with like-minded individuals and potentially lead to in-person meetups or collaborations.
Practice Digital Etiquette: When engaging in digital conversations, be mindful of the tone and clarity of your messages. Miscommunications can easily occur online, so take the time to ensure your intentions are accurately conveyed. Show respect, kindness, and consideration for others’ perspectives, even in virtual spaces.
Reconnect Offline: If you have been primarily communicating with someone online, consider taking the initiative to meet them in person. Suggest meeting for a meal, attending an event together, or simply going for a walk. By bridging the gap between the digital and physical realms, you can strengthen the connection and deepen your relationship.
The rewards of forging authentic connections extend beyond personal fulfillment, impacting our mental and physical well-being, personal growth, and professional success. By nurturing our connections, both online and offline, we can create a supportive network that uplifts and enriches our lives, fostering a sense of belonging, understanding, and shared experiences in this interconnected world. So, take the time and effort to make connections—it’s an investment that yields immeasurable rewards.
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Multiple studies have indicated that strong social ties and social support have a positive impact on brain health. Here are a few examples:
The Harvard Study of Adult Development: This ongoing study, which began in 1938, has been tracking the lives of hundreds of participants for decades. The research has consistently found that strong social connections are associated with better brain health and overall well-being. It has shown that individuals with supportive relationships have reduced risk of cognitive decline, dementia, and other age-related cognitive impairments.
The Whitehall II Study: This long-term study conducted in the United Kingdom has examined the health and well-being of civil servants since 1985. The research has found that individuals with more extensive social networks and stronger social support tend to have better cognitive function and lower risk of cognitive decline.
The MacArthur Study of Successful Aging: This study, conducted by the MacArthur Foundation, examined factors contributing to successful aging. The research found that individuals who maintained strong social connections and engaged in regular social activities experienced better cognitive function and had a reduced risk of developing cognitive impairments later in life.
The Rush Memory and Aging Project: This study conducted at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago focused on the factors influencing cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. The findings indicated that individuals with larger social networks and more frequent social interactions exhibited a slower rate of cognitive decline compared to those with limited social engagement.