Updated: Jan 30, 2021
By Andrea Seydel
Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World Book Summary
In the book that we need NOW more than ever to avoid a social recession, Vivek Murthy's message is about the importance of human connection, the hidden impact of loneliness on our health, and the social power of community. Dr. Murthy makes a powerful and convincing argument for why we can and must build a more connected world.
Humans are social creatures: In this simple and obvious fact lies both the problem and the solution to the current crisis of loneliness. Dr. Vivek Murthy makes a case for loneliness as a public health concern: a root cause and contributor to many of the epidemics sweeping the world today from alcohol and drug addiction to violence to depression and anxiety.
But, at the center of our loneliness is our innate desire to connect. We have evolved to participate in the community, to forge lasting bonds with others, to help one another, and to share life experiences. We are, simply, better together.
We have evolved to participate in the community, to forge lasting bonds with others, to help one another, and to share life experiences. We are, simply, better together. And yet, in spite of our desire to connect, loneliness is everywhere!
The good news is that with an awareness of the causes of our loneliness, comes creative solutions to help ourselves and those we love to create more connected lives.
Murthy defines loneliness as “the subjective feeling that you’re lacking the social connections you need.” He made the following main points:
1. Human connection is as important as food and water. There are dangers of loneliness. Science has shown that loneliness is even dangerous to our health.
2. Our ancestors quickly learned that we were more likely to be attacked or starve if we became separated from our groups. Loneliness is a part of our evolution. Social thinking is like a reflex.
3. We have moved too far towards individualism and must focus on communities and groups to foster social connections.
4. Murthy highlights three circles of connection, which correspond to the three types of loneliness. Close Friends and Confidantes. Occasional Companions.Colleagues and Acquaintances.
5. When lonely, we are more likely to beat ourselves up about it, magnifying our weaknesses, discounting our strengths, and distrusting our internal compass. Once we lose our internal compass, our emotional sense of grounding and identity can begin to slip.
WE MUST STOP THE PATTERN WITH 1. Constructive Self-talk. 2. Self-awareness of what we value. 3. Development of moral character. 4. Supportive families. 5. Technology can help and hinder. 6. Balance life with social nourishment. 7. Manage emotions. 8. Build social connections.
Key Take Aways
Dangers of loneliness: Loneliness can be divided into three layers: intimate/emotional loneliness, relational/social loneliness and collective/community loneliness. A range of research suggests low social connections can lead to adverse physical health impacts.
Both introverts and extroverts need strong relationships to feel a sense of belonging. It is the quality of these relationships, not the quantity, that matters the most.
Loneliness is also distinct from solitude. Getting comfortable with solitude can paradoxically improve our ability to connect with others.
The danger comes from the loneliness cycle: The shame and fear of loneliness make it self-perpetuating, discouraging us from joining clubs and meeting others. Many then turn to self-destructive behaviours to cope. Stop the cycle by accepting that human connection is as important as food and water.
Understanding The Loneliness Evolution: Our biological response to loneliness is a consequence of our evolutionary need for social connection. Over the long run, this response can have a destructive health impact. Our ancestors quickly learned that we were more likely to be attacked or starve if we became separated from our groups. But social groups also provided the numbers for mating, communal teaching and protection.
We perceive isolation as an emergency. When faced with loneliness, our bodies release cortisol and raise our blood pressure and blood sugar levels- long-term destruction through stress and inflammation
Individualism Is Becoming a Trend: Changes in cultures and technologies are increasingly leading us to individualism over collectivism. We need to rebalance. We have moved too far towards individualism and must focus on communities and groups to foster social connections once more, without undermining individual liberties.
Some technologies, like social media, have been linked with higher rates of loneliness. They can also create things like; multitasking, comparison culture, distractions. lowered empathy and compassion- exacerbating the loneliness epidemic.
Addressing loneliness, inside-out and outside-in: To address loneliness, we first need to get reacquainted with our authentic selves. Meanwhile, parents, educators and policymakers must lead the way in fostering social connections.
When lonely, we are more likely to beat ourselves up about it, magnifying our weaknesses, discounting our strengths, and distrusting our internal compass. To stop this pattern, we first need to make our “self-talk” more constructive and compassionate.
To do this, we need to take a step back and think about the questions that reveal what we value and how our personalities differ from others. We need to prioritize and build social connections. How can you add solitude as growth to your life? What social connections can you foster?
Circles of connection: A solution for policymakers and individuals requires three levels of social connection to be addressed, which mirror the types of loneliness.
The most beneficial relationships for our health are reciprocal and mutually beneficial. A contributory factor here may be the release of oxytocin and endorphins. Healthy circles strengthen our emotional core. Gathering for common interests. Building our Inner circle (friends) Middle circle (occasional companions) Outer Circle (acquaintances)
What are some reciprocal and mutually beneficial human connections that you have or can foster or develop? Consider Inner circle (friends), Middle circle (occasional companions/groups) Outer circle (acquaintances).
Spend time each day with those you love. Devote at least 15 minutes each day to connecting with those you most care about.
Focus on each other. Forget about multitasking and give the other person the gift of your full attention, making eye contact, if possible, and genuinely listening.
Embrace solitude. The first step toward building stronger connections with others is to build a stronger connection with oneself. Meditation, prayer, art, music, and time spent outdoors can all be sources of solitary comfort and joy.
Help and be helped. A service is a form of human connection that reminds us of our value and purpose in life. Checking on a neighbour, seeking advice, even just offering a smile to a stranger six feet away, all can make us stronger.
Using Mind Map
MindMeister: Online Mind Mapping and Brainstorming (link)
Live Life Happy Podcast Episode 111
Live Life Happy- Andrea Seydel on Apple Podcasts (link)