We talk about a lot of things that technology has changed in our world. Scott Heffner talks about the loss of movement. Dr. Sean Cailteaux sees the changes to our posture. These changes and many others have an impact on our physical body. Doctors and researchers are also realizing that technology has changed how you can connect to other people and build your tribe which is impacting our physical health as well.
Studies of loneliness are finding that “It harms our bodies and changes the way we perceive and interact with the world. It has been found to be connected to a series of conditions from fatigue, anxiety, and depression to elevated blood pressure, sleep disruption, inflammation, and a weakened immune system. It may also lead to cognitive decline and ultimately to dementia” Researchers found “that poor social relationships were associated with a 29% increased risk of coronary heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.”
To be healthy and happy, you need to think about how much movement you are getting, and how you can sleep better, and you need to address how to build your tribe of people that surround you.
What is the main way that you interact with people in a normal day? How many people do you regularly interact with? How deep are those interactions? How often are those interactions made through technology? How often are the interactions disrupted by technology?
Change Your Connections
To overcome the negative health effects of loneliness, we need to change our connections with others. We need to build good interactions and allow those positive interactions to develop into stronger connections.
I have four recommendations for improving our interactions with other people, whether it is your family or a clerk at the store.
- Be grateful. When you practice gratitude, include the relationships in your life. Actively think about the friends and family that you love.
- Reach out. Call or meet up with someone you haven’t seen or spoken to in a while. Don’t avoid making the call because you don’t have 2 hours to chat. Make the most of the five minutes that you have.
- Be present. When you’re with someone, give them your whole attention. Stay off your phone while you’re eating dinner with your family, but also when you are checking out at the grocery store.
- Be consciously kind and smile. Smile, say hello, please, and thank you. Open doors. Let the elderly go in front of you at the store.
Being present is where we seem to face the biggest challenge with the technology in our lives. Even when we are talking to and connecting with someone, our phone can buzz with a notification, and our attention is distracted from the person who is in front of us. “Researchers at the University of Essex found that having a phone nearby, even if we don’t check it, can be detrimental to our attempts at connecting with others.” To stay present, focus on your connections with the people in front of you and put your devices in a drawer or another room.
These simple recommendations can change our interactions with our family and friends, and also the two minute interactions we might have throughout our day with the cashier at the grocery store or the waiter. These improved interactions will allow us to feel stronger connections throughout our day and overcome the physical effects of loneliness.
Build Your Tribe
It is important to make eye contact and be kind and considerate of the people that we have brief interactions with throughout the day. But it is also important to make deeper connections with people in our lives.
When we build these deeper connections, we often do it by creating groups, which I call tribes. In my book, The E Factor: Engage, Energize, Enrich, I quoted Seth Godin’s definition of a tribe, “a tribe is ‘a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader and connected to an idea.’ He goes on to say that ‘A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.’” You might have your work tribe, your book club tribe, your PTA tribe, and I encourage everyone to have a wellness tribe. When we add a new tribe or expand a tribe, we are finding more people to connect with on a deeper level than the clerk at the store. This gives us a sense of love and belonging, which we need as we try to overcoming the loneliness caused by technology as you build your tribe.
To build your tribes, make a list of the tribes you already belong to. When was the last time you saw them? Make a plan and reach out. Yes, you’ll have to be the one to reach out, to make plans, to ask everyone to put their phones away, and to model good behavior by never looking at your phone. But this effort is completely worth it.
If you need to add a new tribe, look for activities and events you can get involved in, or meetup groups that you can join. If you are attending a new event with people you don’t know, make a plan, be kind and say hello to everyone you meet, and plan to have a deeper conversation with a certain number of people before the end of the event.
Technology and our lifestyle offer us a lot of challenges to overcome. It is worth the effort to make the small changes that will help us make strong connections with other people as you build your tribe.