Why is so much emphasis being placed on the importance of human connections in the modern world? Research tells us that having positive connections makes us happier and healthier.
Neuroscientist, Matt Liebermann PhD, says in his book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect that our wellbeing depends on our connections with others. Referring to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which places physical needs before social needs, Liebermann says it should be the other way around as we are utterly dependent on others to provide food, shelter and warmth from birth and ensuing early years, and for longer than any other mammal.
He also says our social environment from a young age helps to shape us for future relationships. For example, social connections we experience help us to learn how to ‘mind-read’ from social cues as to whether someone can be trusted, relied upon, liked, and so on. In prehistoric times, we had to rely on our tribe to keep us safe from dangerous animals or to help us when in conflict with other tribes. Connections were nature’s way of ensuring our survival.
We still rely on our tribe(s) today. Connections we have, such as those formed in the workplace, volunteer setting, or social space to share interests, provide us with that sense of belonging we seek, and which is deeply ingrained in our psyche. Even groups considered ‘anti-social’ will attract like-minded people who are searching to fulfil the need to feel they belong.
In the workplace, enlightened employers have recognised that a happy worker is more productive, so healthier working environments, such as providing flexible working hours, gym memberships and creches, are considered the norm in many places. Historically, chat between colleagues was frowned upon as it was considered you were ‘slacking off’ whereas now, interaction and fostering good connections are encouraged.
Given that being connected to others is our natural state and critical to our happiness and wellbeing, we should make forming, developing and cherishing them our priority.