It’s no coincidence that we call love a “drug.” It’s one of our most natural, readily available “highs.” Love is, quite literally, a chemical attraction. And research has shown that intimate connection is a vital aspect of our wellbeing – leading to a number of serious benefits, including increased happiness, lower stress levels, improved physical health, and longer lifespans.
But there can be a lot of pressure on romantic love when February rolls around. Are you waiting until you have the perfect night of candlelight and roses planned before soaking up all the benefits of love and belonging? Stop right there. We’re here to teach you about the art of connection. Friendship, belonging, and social connection of all forms provide just as powerful ways to tap into this wellspring of wellbeing.
HOW’S YOUR FORM?
Like any wellness practice – from meditation to yoga to stacking biohacking practices – the benefits of connection increase considerably when you focus on your FORM. in the case of connection, that means making eye-contact, getting vulnerable, being an active listener, engaging in shared experiences, and utilizing physical touch to unlock new levels of trust, intimacy, and belonging.
Here’s the science behind four artful adjustments to optimize the way you connect:
1. EYE LOVE YOU:
Eye contact is one of the most powerful forms of nonverbal communication. It helps establish a connection between two people and conveys feelings of trust and intimacy. Research has shown that making eye contact for 30 to 60 seconds releases oxytocin in the brain: a hormone that reduces stress and anxiety, and fosters feelings of trust, love, and social bonding.
In fact, studies have found that people who make more eye contact experience lower levels of stress, less social anxiety, and increased feelings of connection with others.
2. GET VULNERABLE:
One of the most effective ways to establish a connection with someone is to share your vulnerabilities. This means opening up and revealing a part of yourself that you might not normally show others. When you share your vulnerabilities, you are essentially saying, "I trust you enough to show you this part of me." This creates an opportunity for the other person to do the same, and fosters a deeper connection between the two of you.
HD TIP: Shared infrared sauna sessions are a powerful way to boost intimacy and connection. The relaxing heat provides a positive emotional environment that primes a duo for healthy bonding. If you’re sweating it out with an old friend, use the time to talk about the deep stuff. If you’re getting hot with a romantic partner, go nude and soak up the benefits of physical vulnerability.
3. BE AN ACTIVE LISTENER:
Active listening involves paying attention to what the other person is saying, without interrupting or getting distracted. When you listen actively, you send the message that you value the other person's thoughts and feelings, and that you are interested in what they have to say. Research has shown that active listening leads to improved communication, increased feelings of trust and connection, and better relationships.
We like to think of this as a more social iteration of mindfulness. Turn your phone onto Do Not Disturb, give your friend your full attention, and calmly release each distraction that pops up in your mind.
4. DON’T HOLD BACK ON HUGS.
Touch is a powerful tool for connection. When we touch someone, we release oxytocin, the hormone that reduces stress and promotes feelings of trust and social bonding. Research has shown that touch also has physiological effects, including reducing blood pressure and improving heart health. Whether it's a hug, a handshake, or simply holding hands, touch is an essential aspect of human connection.
It goes without saying that we only advocate for consensual touch, but when you are considering extending intentional physical touch to your friends, do NOT hold back on the hugs. We need more than you might think. Virginia Satir, a famous family therapist, is often quoted saying: “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” To be frank, we’re all about thriving (not just surviving) at HigherDOSE. And in our modern digital lifestyles, that’s a high hug quota. So pull your loved ones close, hold that hug for an extended time to boost serotonin levels, and then do it again the next time you see them.
MAKE TIME FOR MAKING CONNECTIONS.
The same as any movement practice, the only way to soak up the benefits of social connection is to make it to your mat. AKA: you simply must make time for social connection (preferably offline and disconnected from social media altogether), if you want to experience the transformation it can bring to your health.
In our modern world, self-care has earned somewhat of a solo reputation. A night in. A personal spa day. A quiet walk alone in nature. We love these activities for recharging and reconnecting with our inner selves, but we also know that being around loved ones is an equally potent source of self-care.
If you feel like your social calendar is cutting into your wellness routine, it may be time to reframe how you think about social connection. Don’t give up your solo self-care days! But make sure a night in with the girls is given equal priority.
Research has proven that strong social connections lead to a 50% increased chance of longevity. Conversely, other studies have proven that a lack of social connection is more dangerous to your health than obesity, smoking, or high blood pressure. Social connection doesn’t simply reduce anxiety and depression, it actually boosts your immune system. The same genes involved in social connection also code for immune function and inflammation.
PRACTICE WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE.
You’ve got your form down now – but are you making eye contact with the right people? It matters.
In the world’s blue zones (the communities that live the longest and healthiest lives) social connection is a key contributing factor to vitality. But what they connect around is part of this equation. The world’s longest-lived people have either been born into or have chosen social circles that support healthy behaviors. It’s not just that they are connected. They are connected to communities that support healthy, happy lifestyles.
Research from the Framingham Studies have proven that smoking, obesity, happiness, and loneliness are all contagious. Your social network impacts your health. Finding the right tribe is vital. Is your current community elevating you to a higher state or holding you back from your higher self?
P.s. if you aren’t the biggest social butterfly, you are not barred from these health benefits! Don’t count your followers when thinking about longevity. Quality matters, not quantity. The science behind social connection is simple: all that matters is that you feel connected.
GALENTINE’S DAY CHALLENGE:
Gather some good friends for a night of intentional connection. Review our 5 scientifically-proven ways to connect more powerfully. Then, ask your crew to commit to meaningful eye contact, generous hugs, and active listening. Choose a shared experience that integrates healthy habits and true relaxation. We love an at-home spa night. Follow up some HigherDOSE treatments with a round of wellness elixirs, a nourishing family-style meal, and plenty of time to laugh, cry, and connect.