Writing Together: The Shocking Research on Connection
When I think about the times in my life where I’ve been the most blue – and the most enlivened – the pattern is pretty clear. While the solitude / introspection space is my nature and source of joy and serenity, when I camp out there too long and don’t also prioritize time with others (teas and happy hours, interactive classes, circles…), I feel it in my brain chemistry. My joy shifts to a subtle ache to see and be seen.
I know I need community and connection.
I didn’t know how much.
Last month I read Ruth Whippman’s New York Times Sunday Review piece, “Happiness Is Other People.” I’m still reeling over her research on happiness and anxiety in America.
Not only is connection the key to our happiness:
If there is one point on which virtually every piece of research into the nature and causes of human happiness agrees, it is this: our happiness depends on other people.
But a lack of connection is dangerous to our health:
Research shows that a lack of social connection carries with it a risk of premature death comparable to that of smoking, and is roughly twice as dangerous to our health as obesity.
Um, really!!!??? I knew connection was important, but spending too much time alone is more dangerous than smoking??!!! I’m intrigued by these findings.
The article also speaks to a cultural shift that I find interesting. In our spiritual lives and our pursuit of happiness, we’re shifting away from a focus on community and towards a focus on the individual. We’re meditating more and doing yoga – and maybe we’re even doing that in a group, but we’re essentially in a bubble, having our own internal experience.
Here’s Whippman’s advice, given the compelling findings that connection is critical to our health and happiness:
…the next time you have the choice between meditating and sitting in a bar with your friends complaining about meditation class, you should probably seriously consider going to the bar, no matter what your happiness app says.
I love this woman.
Piggy-backing on her analogy, given the choice between solo writing practice and communal writing (writing and sharing, seeing and being seen), I say, (safely), do both! Like meditation practice, solo writing practice is a way to cool our over-active minds, pay attention to our immediate and inner world, and listen to our guidance and wisdom. But communal writing gives us:
- the health, wellness, and nourishment that ONLY comes from connection with others,
- the crucial reminder that we’re all different, but so much the same, and
- a whole lot of magic.
Even if you think you hate writing, think you can’t write, think writing and sharing in a group sounds like the stupidest, scariest, silliest way to spend 90 minutes, consider checking it out anyway and treating the experience like you’re “sitting in a bar with your friends complaining about meditation class.”
The truth is, the circle will love you for it -- for bringing forward whatever is true for you.
Want to write?
Take a pen & prompt journey:
"happiness is other people"
Write whatever arises in your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Don’t stop to think or edit - keep your pen moving.
Accept ALL that you write - the pretty & ugly; absurd & boring. Discover what wants to be felt, known, expressed, released...