“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.” – John Lennon
Welcome to Stand In Love! If you are a first time connector, I am SO thrilled you joined us!
Today, we are exploring Pillar 4 in our 6-part series on Brain Health. To dive deep into this topic, I called up my girlfriend and friendship expert Shasta Nelson. In case you missed the post featuring Shasta’s 3 core components of friendships, you can read it here. So how does social connection promote brain health, and how can Shasta’s years of research on this subject benefit you? Read on!
Shasta’s personal mission: “Friendships can save the world!”
Shasta Nelson, M.Div., is the Founder of GirlFriendCircles.com, a women’s friendship matching site in 65 cities across the U.S. and Canada. Her spirited and soulful voice for strong female relationships can be found in her books Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness and Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of GirlFriends.
Here’s our girlfriend chat!
Q: Shasta, in your book Frientimacy, you share the importance of positivity in the cultivation of friendships and social interactions, What role does positivity play in connecting socially?
“Positive feelings are the foundation for every relationship we have! At the end of any interaction, whether we are conscious of it, or not, we are determining how much we want to interact with that person again, and we’ll base it off of how we felt in their presence. In fact, research shows us that for a relationship to stay healthy, our positivity-to-negativity ration has to be at least 5:1, meaning that we need five positive emotions for every negative one. So while we can never do away with all negative qualities, life stressors, or relational disappointments; we can always add more positivity: more kindness, empathy, laughter, acts of service, affirmation, gratitude, pride, etc.”
Q: According to your extensive research, what would you say is the biggest obstacle to social connection? What would you say to someone who feels they just don’t have the energy or mood to connect socially?
The most common self-reported obstacle is “lack of time.” I hear it repeatedly. And unfortunately it’s a vicious cycle in that the less frequently we see our friends, the less meaningful it can often feel, and so then the less often we want to make the time to see them. On the contrary, the more we spend time with each other— the more we feel like we know what’s going on in each other’s lives, the safer we feel sharing, the more we feel supported, and the more relaxed and positive we feel.
Consistent time and interaction is one of the three requirements of all relationships that I teach in my book Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness; and without interaction we can’t do the other two requirements: positivity and vulnerability. It is time together that provides us the chance to share our lives and feel supported. So, while some friendships can survive less consistent interaction now if they have a history of time spent together, we simply cannot create new friendships without the gift of a lot of time together.
Q: Let’s talk about the “8 Vital Friends Role “ … a part of your book Frientimacy I really enjoyed! What is the benefit of having friends who play different roles in our lives, and how does that help contribute to our ability to connect socially?
Those 8 Vital Roles come from Tom Rath, author of Vital Friends, and I agree: they are so enlightening! It reminds us that we all have different strengths and roles that we play for our friends which means that we can’t expect any one person to be all of those things. One myth that we’ve had to slowly let go of is this belief that 1-2 relationships can do for us what our tribes and communities used to do for us. When we have healthy expectations of who our friends are, and what primary role they can play in our lives, we then, for example, know whether to reach out to a Builder, Collaborator, Connector, or Energizer.
Q: Everyone who has read your book and those who will want to read it (it’s SUCH a GREAT read) will want to know : What are your favorite ways to connect? And would you mind sharing a time when you connected with someone and it resulted in a deep, long-term friendship or relationship?
My favorite ways to connect are through long conversations where both people are feeling seen— which means both people need to feel safe sharing (vulnerability) and feeling supported (positivity). My temperament bonds through conversations, especially conversations about things like ideas, feelings, and psychology. To feel close, I ultimately want to feel like I can say anything and that you will, too! For some people, this would sound exhausting! ha! But put me in my living room, with a glass of red wine, a couple of friends, and a long evening ahead of us— and I am one happy girl.
And in answer to your second question— the secret to that wasn’t having a long and meaningful conversation with someone as that can happen somewhat often, but what turned it into a long-term friendship was the fact that we repeated it, which helped give us the consistency needed to get the friendship off the ground. For example, a couple of my more recent friendships come to mind and what helped them turn into friendships instead of a friendly interaction was that they were in some monthly group I was a part of which allowed us all to keep getting together and build some shared history.
Q: If you were to leave us with a few lasting thoughts on why it is important for our brain health to connect socially, what would you share?
The research is staggering on this but in a nutshell: feeling supported buffers our bodies from absorbing the impact of stress. How we answer the question, “how loved and supported do I feel?” will tell us more about our future health than almost any other factor including our diet and exercise. Our immune systems are stronger, we live longer, we recover from surgery and sickness faster, we feel more optimistic, and we report greater happiness when we feel connected to others. The best thing we can do for brain and body health is make sure we develop supportive relationships.
Thank you Shasta for sharing your passion and expertise with the Stand In Love community! Let’s continue the conversation… please share in the comments any thoughts or feelings that arise when reading this interview! Stand In Love is a welcome place for serving PEOPLE, inspiring IDEAS, and living your PURPOSE!
Extra Credit Readers: Check out this video on Ginger: The Oil of Courage! Goes hand- in-hand for social connection!!!