This post is written by Malynn Utzinger, Director of Integrative Practices at Promega.
Connection is intuitive. We’re wired for connection, hard wired. This need exists at a bone deep biological level. If that seems like poetry or hyperbole, imagine trying to do the smallest thing to accomplish the tiniest part of your day without the existence of others.
This realization has never been more apparent as we do our best to manage life in our current connection-restricted world. We find that when we lose this essential element of ourselves, we lose part of our human survival kit. We survive but to truly thrive, we need to make an intentional effort to reignite connection.
We all know that odd feeling of passing another masked person in the hallway at work or the aisles of a grocery store. We’ve been trained by now to step far to the side, moving apart from one another, and it feels like a contracture, a sinking inside. But we also know the feeling, when we encounter another person, even wearing a mask, and that person looks at you and smiles at you. You can see the warmth in their eyes and it’s real. You can both feel it, and even that small connection brings life to your day. And we remember those moments.
But the problem is that we get busy and slip. We can often get through the day and put off connecting “until things settle down.” We let our connections slip and we can often get through the day, but we sometimes don’t even notice that the effects have snuck up on us. We get a little drier, a little edgier, we get a little bit more selfish in ways we do not even intend.
The importance of reigniting connection
When a person encounters social isolation, even for a few weeks, we see it in their brain. Their sensory and motor cortices begin to shrink, and it changes the way we show up. It’s no wonder that we stop seeing the bigger picture so well and it gets harder to work on the creative, shared solutions that we need. And let’s face it, our world needs creative solutions, scientific and otherwise, more than ever right now.
We’ve managed to survive in these COVID months, even without many in-person interactions, but to really thrive, we need to work at reigniting connection.
Many of us are fortunate to have a trusted circle of family, friends or colleagues to share about our personal needs, our professional questions and uncertainties that arise. But there is no company in the world and no community in the world, that I know of, where reaching out in a moment of vulnerability is easy. And yet, every one of us needs connection.
We all have some unique pressures, some unknowns in life—aging and ill parents, a friend or a neighbor who is out of work, an unexpected twist in our own lives—that we are struggling to hold. It’s in these moments where the smile of a colleague, or a word or two of reassurance, someone just to make us laugh, or to wordlessly be with us, matters.
I would like to leave you with a challenge this week to reach out once or twice to someone who you know or work with but maybe you haven’t connected with in a personal way in a while. Say hello to them, check in on them through a call or a note, put on your masks and go outdoors and have a meeting if you can. See what happens for you as you do this: What does it kindle in you? How does it affect your mood and your day? does it leave you with something fresh or unexpected?
We need each other to exist. To keep thriving, we need to keep connecting. It’s the small and unexpected connections that matter so much, so keep it simple. Reach out to someone who isn’t expecting it. Let it be genuine and that will be enough.
As a Family Medicine physician and Director of Integrative Practices for Promega, Malynn thinks of herself as one who stands with a foot on either side of the chasms we humans encounter in life, helping us stitch together our worlds, our words, and our ways of being with each other. At Promega, her work in ESI has focused on helping people begin with self-understanding and move toward better understanding of others, ultimately supporting the roots and branches of a vibrant work community in which people feel belonging and a high sense of contribution. Malynn has worked in Family Medicine, Integrative Medicine, and Preventive Oncology at the UW, as the Director of Women’s Health for the Chopra Center in San Diego, as a consultant in integrative medicine and emotional intelligence for GHC and Eileen Fisher in NYC, and in research at Planetree and the Preventive Medicine Research Institute of San Francisco. She now lives in Madison, WI with her husband and son.
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