Human Connection – First Yourself, Then Others

Human Connection – First Yourself, Then Others

Posted on Feb 14, 2022

Valentines – and kindness

February - the month of Valentine’s Day. Also the month of 'Random Acts of Kindness Day' on the 17th, this month is a time that can be framed as all about human connection.

While some people love the idea behind Valentine’s Day and take it as a reason to go all-out on romantic gestures, the original meaning behind Valentine’s Day is widely disputed and comes from many different sources. Maybe Saint Valentine was a third century Christian priest and physician who, around 270 AD, was martyred by being beaten, stoned and beheaded. Not a very romantic story; no rose or three course dinner in sight! In fact, on the eve of his beheading, the legend says he signed a letter to his jailer’s daughter, whom he had healed of blindness, as ‘from your Valentine’. Or maybe he was beheaded for marrying couples against the orders of the Roman emperor Claudius. Either way, far from the fleeting teenage concept of romantic love, as best embodied by Romeo and Juliet, (spoiler alert our star-crossed lovers both die), we choose to focus on a higher and more long-lasting form of love, one of connection to ourselves and others.

Connection with self, before connection with others

Our mission to improve quality of life emphasizes the need to break the cycle of fear and anxiety that so many people are locked into. The modern world holds us in this cycle through hyper-messaging, creating continuous partial attention, pinging us with reminders, never ending to-do lists and unrealistic workloads. These multiple sources of stress create situations where many people are stuck in a permanent, adrenaline-fueled, flight/fight/freeze state, which is great for survival, but not so great for daily life. 

This happens because our brain cannot distinguish between different sources of stress in the body: it just knows we are stressed. Therefore, it might perceive the same level of threat from a frustrated email from your boss, as it would from being chased by a hungry tiger. This means that chronic stress can lead to a permanently adrenalized state and an inability to relax and connect. If you’re perceiving threats everywhere, your evolutionary imperative is to look for immediate short-term solutions to the danger, when in fact what we need is to make longer term, more empathic choices that aren’t just about us, but also build in connection with others. 

Connecting with others is widely recognised as a key factor in longevity, indeed in the Blue Zones, (regions of the world thought to have a higher than usual number of people live much longer than average) community involvement is one of the top three factors that these people have in common. 

Connecting with yourself before you connect with others - even in a business context - can make a huge difference. Have you ever been delayed and ended up late for a meeting, rushed in and created a poor impression? On reflection, if you had taken even just one more minute and spent the time connecting with yourself, just simply breathing and changing state, you may well have recovered the situation a lot more effectively.  

Spending just 10 minutes with a Sensate might just be a magic wand when it comes to changing state - and I’m not talking about frogs and princes! One of our customers, Katy, was getting ready to go away with a friend for the weekend. She says “I was getting stressed out - I was on my way to catch a train when I felt a migraine coming on. I couldn’t get out the door because I could feel it coming and it was making me feel really panicky. So I just got everything ready for the train and then laid down on the sofa with my Sensate for 10 minutes. It totally did the trick!  Other people might take Migraleve, and it would have the same effect, but for me it was about connecting with myself. I knew that what I was going to do would be relaxing and restorative, but I just needed to ground myself, remember what I was going to do and notice the pull towards relaxation rather than the push of getting away from stress. The migraine never arrived; I caught the train and had a fabulous weekend, but it could so easily have been overshadowed by that migraine. Thank goodness for this little thing!” 

WFH hack!

This connection with yourself is particularly important for the changing of state required by so many of us these days as we shift in and out of “work” mode in our own houses, while working from home. As a working mom of two boys, Sensate convert Sarah says it’s her parenting go-to, “I know that shifting modes from “work mode” to “mom mode” is critical to the success of my afternoon with my kids. I can’t go to collect them from school in work mode (cerebral, effective, efficient and coming from my head, not my heart) because I’m not going to be the mom they need me to be and we will usually hit an argument before we even reach home! Just a 10 minute session with my Sensate before I head out on the school run creates the bridging ritual I need to change states and be a more emotionally available, patient mom.”

Connecting first with yourself, re-grounding, and shifting modes is what enables you to connect with others, and we love hearing what practices and rituals people deploy to shift gears from work to ‘real life’. I once heard a man say he would literally reach an empty hand out to a tree by his front door, and hang an invisible bag of all his work stresses and busy thoughts on a branch, on his way into the house at night. He would then mentally collect the bag again on his way out in the morning. Take a minute to think, are you doing something to mark the moment when you're done with work for the day? 

Your body knows what’s safe…

One of the things our team has noticed when doing on-site demos lately is “The Big Sigh” that people give when they are given permission to just breathe in a Sensate session for a minute or two.  It’s subconscious, and if you point it out to people, they often don’t even know they’ve done it, but it’s just the subconscious, autonomic, nervous system resetting. In the same way that you don’t have to think about your heartbeat, it just does it: when your body feels safe, it shifts you into a more relaxed state which allows all your “rest and digest” functions to be more effective. 

“When my son was a baby and would fall asleep in my arms, I would know I could safely put him down without waking him only once I’d heard that double in-breath and then the big sigh” says Andrew. Physical contact with his father’s body creates that feeling of safety for a baby. Ultimately, we are all driven by this feeling of safety. Safety is the fundamental building block of all motivation theories - everything else comes after safety. So it stands to reason that the body struggles to function properly - especially to relax and digest, unless it feels safe.

So, for the ultimate connection, rather than the flashy gestures of Valentine’s Day, first head for self-care (so much is written on this these days - about time!) and then you will find it easier to make room in your body and mind to unite, and create connections with others.