Recently, I enjoyed attending my all-time favorite conference, Learning and the Brain. It delves into the latest discoveries about the brain, learning, and the key to leading fulfilling lives. This year was more than just a long weekend of laughter and learning; it was a reminder of the remarkable impact that connection can have on our well-being.
Conferences always have that one thing that blows your mind, at least for me. One of the biggest things that stuck out to me this year was the surgeon general's latest report, released a couple of weeks ago, on the dire state of loneliness in this country. Nearly a quarter of the population admits to feeling lonely, shedding light on a societal issue that demands our attention.
Read the report here to find out more: Surgeon General's Report on Social Connection
The theme of connection resurfaced in a presentation by Dr. Robert Waldigner, a psychiatrist and part-time professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He shared insights from an ongoing 85-year study examining the key factors contributing to happiness. The standout predictor? Social support and connection. It's not just a pleasant coincidence that these connections release dopamine — not the fleeting kind induced by sugar or drugs, but sustained happiness that enriches our lives.
As we approach the holiday season, we must recognize the significance of our connections. Being deliberate in nurturing our relationships strengthens our bonds and contributes to our overall well-being. This holiday season, let's consciously connect with friends and family over shared meals, embrace date nights, host game days, and encourage our children to do the same.
Dr. Waldigner's presentation ended with a simple yet powerful action: texting a friend we haven't spoken to in a while. Inspired by this, I reached out to my friend Brooke. She is one of those friends that makes the whole week better when I see her or know I will see her. We all have those friends who bring joy by simply being a part of our lives. I challenge you to extend the same gesture to one of your friends. Boost your dopamine, connect with friends now, and impart this valuable lesson to your children. Remember, children need the support of meaningful friendships just as much, if not more, than we do. Fostering these connections not only keeps them happy but also cultivates attention and reduces anxiety and depression.
In a world that often moves at a relentless pace, let's take a moment to appreciate the profound impact of connection on our lives. After all, the relationships we build powerfully contribute to the enduring happiness we all seek.