As the holiday season comes into full swing, many of us are preparing for some extended visits with family and friends to relax, celebrate, and probably overeat. Also, many of us may take time this season to connect with people in our community who are in real need and try to provide some temporary relief.
During this time of year, it is important to remember that psychologists, academics, and our own kitchen table experience would tell us that our greatest need beyond the basics for survival is our need to feel we belong and are accepted.
We can all relate to the positive emotional sense we feel when we know we are part of a team on the athletic field, the workplace, the community, and certainly the home. When we join efforts with others to support a cause bigger than ourselves, we feel most alive. Whether that cause is building a strong family, a winning basketball team, a competitive business, a community project, or the defense of a nation, the sense of belonging meets a real personal need. Knowing we are an accepted part of something bigger than ourselves is critical to our emotional health and stability.
When we become disconnected or feel rejected from a group, we struggle. In the absence of a sense of connection to others and a cause greater than our own, we all can become susceptible to loneliness and periods of sadness that can potentially lead into depression.
As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, an important opportunity for all of us this holiday season is to give the gift of genuine connection to those we care about most.
As our world gets more connected with technology, research would show that we are all at risk for minimizing the benefits of genuine connection. In addition, today’s technology enables the instant personalization of getting what we want, when we want it, and many times that fosters isolation instead of connection during our “free time” beyond school, work, and the essentials of running a home.
Social scientists would say that our technology dependent connections impact the depth of our relationships mostly because we lose empathy. Sure, emojis help with emotional connection, but it is not optimal. I am sure we have all seen a picture of a beautiful sandy beach and I hope most of us have felt the warm touch of beach sand between our toes. There is a difference in the connection.
As we approach these final weeks of the holiday season and the opportunity to provide the gift of a genuine connection is most available, here are a few thoughts:
- Be intentional about slowing down and spending some time looking people in the eyes, sharing a warm embrace, and listening more than talking. It would be helpful to put the devices in a basket somewhere for just a few moments.
- Conflict in the home is the most heart-breaking of all of life’s struggles. For those close relationships that may have grown cold over the year (or over several years), use the holiday season as momentum to act with courage and reconnect with them using the helpful guideposts of empathy, humility, and a genuine desire to repair the damage.
- There is no single action that makes an individual feel like they matter more than when we help someone in need. When we find ourselves at a low point during the holidays (which is very common, despite the overload of “happiness” we see posted on social media), find a charitable organization and see where to help. It will make a difference in the lives of others and ourselves.
It takes an intentional effort to give the gift of connection to those around us. However, as we make the effort to build stronger connections with those closest to us, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity to contribute to the emotional health and well-bring of those we care about most.