This week’s Guest Blogger, Melissa Wolak, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language cognitive therapist and mindset coach with over 20 years of experience focusing on the empowerment of her clients to overcome obstacles, optimize the brain’s potential and decrease the effects of chronic stress with functional strategies to support healthy lifestyle changes, mindfulness, resilience, productivity and wellbeing. For more information see: https://melissawolak.com/
Meaningful connections and personal relationships can impact your health as much as exercise and your diet. Why are these connections so important?
We are human and human beings are “wired” to form relationships, to spend time together and create a “village” for ourselves. Meaningful connections stimulate the production of positive neurotransmitters in your brain that increase feelings of happiness, safety and security.
There are other very good reasons to start prioritizing meaningful connections as part of your self-care and brain health regime. These connections stabilize and support your parasympathetic nervous system (in other words, they are grounding and take you out of feeling stressed and in survival mode). These uplifting connections boost your immune system and can increase your energy! Cognitively, the interaction with others will stimulate memory, attention, word finding, processing speed and problem solving.
Connection, the spoken and written word, and communication have always been significant to me, as a coach and cognitive-communication expert. I often recommend that my clients increase their socialization and commit to communicating with friends or family, join a group, go to a class, or at the very least speak with people in a store or at the dog park.
Create the intention and consciously choose how you want to make meaningful connections when you go out. Think about who you want to spend time with and who gives you supportive energy and reach out to those people in particular.
Here are five things that you can do that will increase your meaningful connections on a daily basis.
- Make eye contact when you are speaking with people. Stop what you are doing and really focus on the other person. Put down your phone, close your laptop and face the person. I know it can be hard but don’t be tempted to “multi-task.”
- Listen, truly listen to the person that you are speaking with and ask questions. Allow them to finish their thought and pause before interjecting or interrupting
- Express yourself with your sincere words and gestures. When you have the opportunity – hug someone, pat them on the shoulder, squeeze their arm and give a high-five. Cuddle with your child, loved ones and/or pet.
- Schedule consistent times to connect with the uplifting people you care about and love. Time moves quickly and you may not realize how much time has passed since you’ve had any quality time with your friends, family, partner or spouse. Schedule this time in your calendar and respect it as you do your medical appointments.
- Make time to connect with yourself to simply be, do nothing at all and reset or recharge. Schedule at least 10 minutes each day – the more the better. You may “just” sit, allow yourself to daydream, journal, look at the trees from a bench, lay down to rest and breathe, hike, enjoy a cup of tea. Making these meaningful connections can transform your attitude and the tone of your day. In the long term, it will support your physical heart and brain health, but also support your overall emotional well-being. I highly recommend that we move meaningful connections up on our “to do” list and spend quality time with the people we care about, ourselves and nature.
— Melissa Wolak, M.S., CCC-SLP