The Gaze of a Stranger—How Feeling Connected Can Ground, by Shelley Bishop


As I sit in the frigid south central Pennsylvania winter feeling the desire to hibernate, I’m reminding myself that it will benefit me greatly to push myself out the door and into the single digit temperatures. Why? Because all that effort will result in my being with people, and that, in itself, is a powerful action in my recovery journey.

It turns out that there is an abundance of research to remind me, and everyone who’s on their own road of recovery or supporting others in their wellness, of the power of our connection with others.

  • We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. Brene Brown, a Professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and specialist in social connection, shared in an interview that “when those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”
  • Feeling connected makes us kind. The Greater Good Science Center of the University of California Berkeley has a great article that notes “We all know that it feels good to feel connected to other people—indeed, research has even linked social connections to happiness, health, and a longer life. But a 2011 study suggests that our feelings of connection don’t just make us feel good; they also make us do good.”
  • Shy or introverted—it’s okay. For those who are shy, or more introverted, the research shows that it’s not about the number of friends you have. Researchers agree that the benefits of connection are actually linked to your subjective sense of connection.
  • The gaze of a stranger. And finally, as I move away from the computer to enter the wintry weather, how great to know that a Purdue University study finds that “even the gaze of a stranger on the street can make us feel more connected.”

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