“Being alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely,” people like to say. A dash of solitude with self-care can rejuvenate your energy and make you feel ready to take on the world again. You get so busy taking on the world that you forget to flow with it and enjoy every moment life offers. It’s easy for me to get caught up in the rush of life and let important connections slip by — assuming everyone understands that life happens. Humans thrive on community, and you learn more about yourself by connecting with others. Here are five easy ways to connect with others and be your best self.
Engage in Conversation
How do your daily conversations go? How do you respond to the typical “How are you?” Most people spare enough time for a “pretty good” or a nod. Pause the hamster wheel of your brain for a moment and rethink your day’s conversations. How many are about the same old things — and what about the internal conversations you have with yourself? You have over 80,000 thoughts a day, and 80 percent of those don’t paint you in a good light. 90 percent of thoughts are repetitive. Hack the system, and step out of your comfort zone to engage in conversation beyond the surface. Even small alterations go a long way. Be a good friend and randomly call your friend while walking somewhere. Start by asking an open-ended question out loud with a smile to a new acquaintance or inside your mind to challenge negative thoughts
Cultivate Active Compassion
The world gets easier when more people express compassion toward their fellow human beings. What is compassion to you? It’s not making an exception or an excuse for bad behavior — just extending understanding and concern that goes beyond saying, “I’m sorry this is happening to you.” It’s the thing you say because it’s what you’re supposed to say — even if you mean it, the words feel hollow to someone in pain. I’ve been on both sides of the comment, receiving and making it. That’s why I practice active compassion. Let go of judgment and cultivate active compassion. If your friend cries, offer a shoulder, coffee or silly face. Actively listen to others. Know your weakness so that you can give yourself more room in life when you need it.
Set and Respect Boundaries
Always saying yes to everyone? Setting boundaries sounds counterintuitive to forming connections, but integrity develops healthy, reciprocal relationships. More importantly, you advance your relationship with yourself by expressing self-love. When you deplete your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual energy, you have nothing left to give. Where do your “yes” and “no” lines fall? When others set boundaries, do you stamp all over them or respect them? Set and respect boundaries to gain an enhanced perspective on yourself and the world at large.
Be Part of Your Community
Community comes in big and small forms. What does community mean to you? Many think of their local governments, neighborhoods and church groups, which are great examples, but your community can also encompass a block, hobby, passion, craft or societal concern. It also doesn’t have to be in-person. Online communities span the world while still cultivating an intimate space for like-minded folks. Belonging is the third level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which state that humans need love, belonging and interpersonal relationships after safety and physiological needs are met. Belonging and feeling included in groups influences behavior and makes you feel good about yourself. Following that is self-esteem and self-actualization where you earn respect and high regard until finally you feel and express your full potential. TK Community means more than membership in a group — it’s built upon rapport also. You contribute to something outside of yourself, and you also give yourself a chance to get out of your own way.
Creating Space for Contemplation
Half the struggle of living life is getting out of your own way. I have a bad habit of standing in my path and dwelling in the muck. To help counteract this, I take time to reflect often and be alone with myself. Remember that being alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely. I also get off social media. I stay away from unnecessary tasks, but on the other hand, washing dishes is a meditative act if you focus on the water and lemon along with the feel of the dishes. I journal, read, meditate and take walks out in nature away from concrete. Doing what I love daily matters. Don’t lose sight of yourself and what matters in your life. Connecting with others helps you be your best self and cultivate a support system that will see you through anything and everything. Each of these elements also helps you find a connection to your purpose in life and how you can shift from feeling stuck. You will move through life in a way that makes you feel like you’re not trying to make it to the finish line. The ultimate finish line is death, and that’s not predictable — life shouldn’t be, either.