A Call for Belonging
So many of us today have grown accustom to our self-proclaimed independence and we wear it proudly like a badge of honor. While there is nothing inherently wrong with independence, what is wrong is the growing sense of isolation that has resulted from modern notions of independence.
Independence today almost seems synonymous with isolation. Technological advances foster an environment that makes this even more problematic. The average American spends more time checking and interacting with their smartphone than they do with other people face to face, even within physical proximity. And even if we are within physical proximity with others, we’re absorbed in the world that is embedded in a 2” x 4” device. Our world has in many ways become our phone. So much so that on average, most people check their phone every 12 minutes, which means they are engaged in what’s going on with their device more than 80 times a day.
This is a fact of modern life. There is hardly any way to do life anymore without technology. It is in many ways a blessing, but in other ways it harms our well-being. It robs us of being able to fully honor the intrinsic need for connection and love we all have. At our deepest physiological level, we are all wired for touch, connection, and community; we’re wired this way from birth, from the moment we meet our mother or father’s arms and soak up the comfort of their touch. It’s a need that is fundamental to our human nature. It is one of the deepest needs we have – the need for belonging; the need to be seen and to be loved.
Two of my favorite times of day are when my son first wakes up in the morning and runs to me for a long morning hug, and when I pick him up from school and he embraces me with an enthusiastic, “MOMMY!” In both those moments my heart almost seems to expand outward into his and there is a flood of indescribable joy. It’s this part of motherhood that makes all the challenges motherhood brings with it seem so insignificant.
That’s because physical contact – the sensation of touch – is one of the best ways to fulfill our need for connection because touch naturally increases our bodies oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is often referred to as the “love molecule.” It’s what binds a mother to her child in the moments after birth, it’s what binds couples who regularly show signs of affection, and it’s what pumps through our system after a simple gesture of acknowledgement. As we find regular and consistent ways to honor our need for connection, we find that our stress levels decrease, our joy increases, and our world begins to seem more fluid and harmonious (even on the bad days).
I’ll tell you our secret: My husband and I jokingly suffer from “CSBS” – Chronic Snooze Button Syndrome – and this time of year the colder, darker mornings unleash the CSBS to peak intensity.
It’s not the extra sleep we crave (okay, maybe that’s part of it), but it’s the few extra minutes of cuddling in a dark, quiet room that we crave. It’s the way the sense of connection and touch nourishes our body and our soul before launching ourselves into a hectic array of parenting a busy toddler, running our business, and trying to stay on top of all the little fires that seem to pop up throughout the day (despite our best efforts to plan ahead to prevent those situations).
The good news is an intimate relationship is NOT a requirement for physical contact.The nourishment that arises out of physical connection is something that we can all find in a variety of ways:
- Reaching out to hug your friend when you meet for coffee or lunch
- Cuddling your kids on the couch during a family movie night
- Cozying up with a furry companion, a dog, cat, bunny, gerbil, whatever little companion you choose
- Take a warm bubble bath
- Booking a massage and some self-care time at a local spa
- Scheduling a hair or nail appointment
Even though February revolves around love and romance and commercialized notions of connection, remember to take time to nourish your deeper need for honest and real moments of connection. Find outlets to be able to nourish your soul with positive interactions and notice how the sense of tenderness and joy takes you out of isolation and into belonging.