Human beings are social animals. Although many people are what psychologists call “introverts”, our ancestors throughout almost all of history have spent their time depending upon each other. From an evolutionary perspective, interpersonal relationships are desirable because our connection to others helps us survive physically. Emotions, however, are integral to our human experience.  Our feeling of connection, or bonding, to other people plays a big role in our identity and our emotional well being. Even the most independent of us still want to know that we have family or close friends who care about us. We may not need to have people around us all the time, but we are generally happier when we know that others care. We want to know that there are people provide support when we do need that.

Unfortunately many of us have become cut off from connecting with others. We move about the country and lose touch with friends and family. We find some comfort in “liking” posts on social media of someone we haven’t seen in 10 years. We text loved ones now and then. Even couples and family members can begin to feel disconnected. All too often husbands and wives work staggered schedules and see each other a short time each day. Spouses sometimes spend more time emailing or texting each other than they actually do speaking in the same room.  Parents see kids in a rush out the door, and conversations are fit in during homework time, or car rides to school or sports practice. Work friends and coworkers become more distant as people more often work from home. Even in the office, people spend more time focused on computer screens and less time working together. We work out alone, jog alone, ride bikes alone, eat alone at our desks, and drive to work alone.  At home we sit on the couch near each other while looking at our separate screens, with the TV on in the background.

Some argue that social media and different forms of electronic communication bring us closer together. I do believe that is true in some circumstances. But I also know what I hear from most of my clients: “I’m too busy to get together with friends.” “We never have time for date night”. “I barely see my wife during the week.” “I connect with my kid while he’s out on the field and I’m watching.” “We used to have things to talk about, but now it’s just what we read on Facebook.” “I wave to my neighbor when I drive by.”   This lack of in-person human interaction, adds to Depression and Anxiety for many people. We are often not feeling connected. We might see family all the time, but we’re just co-existing, not really communicating, and rarely engaging in meaningful activities together.

A key to battling Anxiety and Depression, and solving relationship problems, is reconnecting with people. One way to reconnect is to be more purposeful about our interactions.  See if you can stop for five minutes to make eye contact with someone you care about and ask them a question. Or ask for them to turn off the phone or laptop and listen to you for a few minutes. Sit around a table and eat a meal together and share what is interesting, what is fun, what is challenging about today. Cook together, do a house project together, exercise together, play together.  Go to an event or a festival or a performance together and then talk about. Even in the rush of a busy day, take five minutes and allow yourself to see what the person near you is thinking about. If you are alone, call a loved one or an old friend – talk, listen, ask questions, and share. Join a group, a club, a volunteer organization, a church, a committee – find a place where people are doing something that interests you and join in.  Modern technology is great, but we are hard wired to find fulfillment in interacting with other people.  When we are Depressed or Anxious, or angry at our significant other, our gut feeling is often to cut ourselves off, move away. Resist that urge to isolate, and go reconnect. It helps. It is what is natural. You will most likely find you are starting to feel better.

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