Human Connection: A Basic Human Need
We may think of shelter, food, water, clothing, and sleep as our only basic needs. If we’ve learned anything from the past few years, it’s that human connection is just as important a basic human need. As writers, it is easy to tuck into our shells and forget about interactions with the world. What we don’t realize is that connecting with others will help improve our writing, spirit, health, drive, view of the world, and ability to be successful. Here is a list of four reasons why human connection is important.
1. Connection and Spirit:
In 2020, we were all forced to isolate ourselves from the world. Interactions between coworkers, family, friends, and even folks at the supermarket came to a screeching halt. We were faced with stillness and quiet, two things our society has difficulty accepting. Depression rose to an all-time high, obesity increased, and the joy we found in our daily interactions was augmented through tik-tok and zoom.
Whether we claim to be introverted or extroverted, humans are meant to interact and connect with one another. In fact, all creatures must interact with the outside world in order to survive. Even independent animals like polar bears (who enjoy the loner life) are forced to mate, hunt, and travel. They don’t sit in their man-cave or she-shed ordering Uber Eats to drop their trout off at the front door.
No matter the type of connection or interaction we have with the outside world, our spirit is bound to be affected. Studies show that even a smile from a stranger can affect the outcome of our day. According to Psychology Today, a simple smile can release specific neurotransmitters in our brains, leading to decreased stress, lower blood pressure, and heart rate.
2. Connection and Health:
Our first instinct may be to believe that if we isolate ourselves, we are less likely to become exposed to germs that could make us ill. While that may be true, when we eliminate interactions with others, we can still become sick in other, and sometimes worse ways.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), claims that human connection can, “lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and actually improve our immune systems.” Sitting at home may keep us from getting the flu or covid, but it may increase obesity, heart disease, depression, anxiety, and decrease our immune system function. When we take precautions like wearing masks, washing hands, and getting vaccinated, the benefits of interacting with others far outweigh the risks.
3. Connection and Drive:
If a simple smile can affect the biology of the brain, then imagine what a handshake, hug, or conversation could do! When we look at people with depression, we could ask, which came first: the chicken or the egg? Does lack of neurotransmitters lead to feeling unmotivated and fatigued, or does feeling unmotivated and fatigued lead to the decrease of neurotransmitters? The reality is it is a both/and scenario. Nature and nurture. Studies show that when a person with depression forces themselves to exercise, or even to get out of the house, mood and cognitive functioning improves. Both exercise and social interaction increase our neurotransmitter levels, which increases energy, leading to an increased drive for success.
Although this trick won’t cure depression, which is a serious and debilitating disease, next time you’re feeling bummed out, take a walk outside or even just go to the grocery store and smile at a stranger.
4. Connection and Writing
I know, I know. Hemingway wrote some of his best work isolated with his bottle of bourbon at the far tip of Florida. But even Hemmingway had friends, went to parties, and interacted with the world. We writers tend to be cynics. Writing about others from a bird's eye view can feel easier than having a conversation with a stranger or even a friend. Sure we’ve all been burned, and I am the first to admit that I have cynical thoughts as well, but I have found that the more I lie in my cynicism, the worse my writing becomes.
Many people believe that cynicism can be a sign of intelligence, however, more studies have disproved this. Cynicism is a defense mechanism. If we claim that other people are dysfunctional, we won’t get burned right? Wrong. No matter how cynical we become, people will always cause pain and hurt, that is part of being human. Being human also allows us to address relational problems, learn, and grow from them. Polar bears can’t work it out when their baby daddy mates with another lady bear, but we have the ability to find peace and forgiveness, grace and understanding when our marriages fall apart; it’s just a matter of willingness.
When we become willing to expose ourselves to one another, our brains are able to storm, and our wheels begin to turn. We begin to ask ourselves about the world, why people act the way they do, how one thing leads to another. That is all writing is, isn’t it? A portrayal of characters and life stories that attempts to create understanding to the nonsensical?
While it may feel powerful to wear cuffed jeans, leather boots, round, tortoise-shell glasses, and grow a full beard while holing up in the corner of the downtown coffee shop and judging everyone that walks by, it does not mean you’re smart or empowered. Sorry, Hipsters, your vibe is just a trend.
A Brief Anecdote on Connection
I was divorced in 2019 and lost many of the friends I had made during my marriage. A year after that, when I was just getting my bearings, covid hit, and I became even more isolated. Like many others, covid also made me realize that life is too short to not be doing what I love. I quit my job as an Outreach Director and Event Planner and started my own writing business, which meant I would be working from home. In just two years, I had gone from party girl and networking guru to loner, writer.
Losing friends after my divorce was painful. People spread rumors and gossip, excluded my children and me from events we had attended in the past, even talked poorly about me to new friends I had made in the community. I have always been an extroverted people person, but after the last two years, people exhausted me. I wallowed in my cynicism and became stuck. My writing, ambition, and drive reflected my attitude, and I was flailing.
I decided enough was enough. I needed human interaction. Despite my skewed belief that people sucked, I began networking, reaching out to people that I had always admired, asking people I had met and liked before to dinner, and now I am writing this article in a beautiful, co-working space for women called Aught Entrepreneurs, overlooking the Knoxville Sunsphere, and feeling more connected and inspired than ever. I feel focused, driven, energetic, and overall happier being out in the world meeting new like-minded people.
We all avoid human connection, whether it’s because we are cynical, scared of getting sick, or anxious about being rejected, but if we want to feel fulfilled, healthy, and successful, we just gotta make ourselves smile at a stranger every once in a while.