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The need for connection

Purpose…how many times have you contemplated your life’s purpose? 

This is something that is becoming more commonly talked about and a question we are more openly contemplating.  What is purpose and why is it so important – emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually?  Neuropsychologist Dr. Patricia Boyle describes purpose as this;

“Purpose is the psychological tendency to derive meaning from life’s experiences and to possess a sense of intentionality and goal directedness that guides behaviour”.

For many people, their sense of purpose is driven by connection – connecting with others on a deep level, giving back and serving others in some way. As humans, we are social, emotional beings driven by a fundamental need to connect.  For those of us who have experienced the feeling of loneliness, isolation and depression, we know only too well how debilitating it can be.  Loneliness is associated with more than double the risk of developing dementia. When we feel rejected socially, it hurts – literally!  Feeling excluded or as though we are not liked or part of a social network are generally considered to be some of the most ‘painful’ experiences that we endure. This is because the brain circuitry underlying physical and social pain are shared and this is also why loss is so painful.

We are living in an increasingly disconnected world and we can feel it.  Now you might think, hang on a minute Lisa, we are more connected than ever!  You’d be right – technologically we’ve never been more connected.  Emotionally, I would say we are the most disconnected we have been.  On a human to human, heart to heart level, we seem to be losing the ability to connect.  We communicate via written text, interact via screens and barely even acknowledge people walking down the street.  We don’t know our neighbours like we used to, our sense of community is not as it was and even seeing friends and family needs to be ‘scheduled’ to fit in to our busy lives. 

Why is social connection so important?  Because it’s the perception that we are cared for, that we are part of a supportive social network and have others that can help us when needed. 

From a neurological point of view, it is also really important for our brain health.  Neuroscience research shows that being socially connected protects the brain against the risk of developing dementia and improves mental health and wellbeing.  The reason for this is because social interaction involves many cognitive functions such as thinking, feeling, reasoning and intuition that build brain resilience and promote the formation of new connections between brain cells.

Other benefits of finding meaning and connection in life are lower risk of cognitive decline, mental health issues and dementia.  Purpose in life is linked to positive health outcomes including happiness, satisfaction, self-acceptance, better sleep, and longevity.

We all need meaning in our lives to have a sense of wellbeing – accomplishment or achievement is also important and contributes to our sense of purpose. 

What matters to you the most? How do you connect with people? Maybe you enjoy catching up with loved ones over coffee and cake, going dancing or being out in nature.  The great thing about connecting is that we can do this in many ways on many levels, sometimes just a smile makes a world of difference 😊

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