We are social beings. We need each other. We need to feel part of something bigger than ourselves. We feel better when others notice us. Communities have thrived on this for centuries.People coming together with a common purpose. Looking at ways to help each other to achieve things of importance or just to get through the day.
While we may be encouraged from a young age in our western culture to be independent, to take care of ourselves, we soon find that we need others. We feel the pain of being excluded from a social event. It could be the first time we don't receive an invitation to a child's birthday party. It could be sitting alone on the school bus. It could be when our best friend is away and the other kids ignore us. We feel it when we are not connected to others.
We are social beings. We define ourselves as individuals in light of the feedback and observations others make of us. This begins early as well. Our parents, then our friends and other adults. They let us know what they think when we do things. We model ourselves on others.We compare ourselves to our friends. We look for approval. We are rewarded for complying, for being like the others. Sometimes though we can be rewarded for being different. Even then it's in light of our social connections. We wouldn't have anything to be different to if we weren't part of something bigger than ourselves.
Increasingly our societies have become less connected in a physical sense. Research now even tells us that people who spoke to others when travelling together on public transport felt happier afterwards. It takes a bit of effort to connect to people on public transport these days. With everyone's heads in their ipads or iphones and earphones in their ears it can be hard to connect even if we want to. The occasional bump or eye contact still occurs though but it can seem awkward, foreign, unfamiliar.
We hear about campaigns encouraging us to have cups of tea with each other. Sometimes it's for a good cause to raise money for others. Sometimes it's just a reminder that being with others helps us feel better, supports our mental health and wellbeing.
We can feel connected in the virtual world as well. Research is also showing that the benefits of connections through social networking are very real and solid. They can even bring us more connections and broaden our horizons in ways that face to face contact doesn't allow.
Finding some new ways to connect with people can help us to look after ourselves.Caring about others helps us too.Altruism has long been recognised as having benefits to the person receiving the help as well as the person giving. Being part of something bigger than ourselves helps us to feel important, to feel less alone, to feel valued and needed.