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Why We Gather: The Importance of In-Person Connection

A good friend is a connection to life — a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world.” — Lois Wyse

As human beings there is no denying that we are inherently social creatures. As far back as we can trace, humans have traveled, lived, and thrived in social groups. In earlier times, being separated from your tribe or social group had severe consequences, and while today we may not have the impending threat of being attacked by a wild animal and needing safety in numbers, we do still have a real need for social interaction and a sense of belonging. Social groups provide us with an important part of our identity and play a (surprisingly) large role in our overall health, happiness and contentment.

Feeling socially connected- in an increasingly isolated world- is more important than ever before. As you will be keenly aware, the pandemic has greatly impacted the way we connect with those we love, our friends, family, colleagues and even strangers. Our social interactions have become very different to say the least, with large weddings, funerals, birthdays, dinners and in-person gatherings replaced with drive-by weddings, visits with our loved ones through windows, virtual happy hours and countless hours of Zoom, Skype, or Facetime interaction.

Social Connection Bali Retreat
After experiencing over 18 months of lockdowns, social distancing and restrictions on how we connect and engage, we have come to realize just how much we need and crave human connection. There is no doubting the fact that these restrictions have placed a real strain on the human spirit.

Things we used to take for granted such as dining with friends, visiting extended family or sharing workplace banter with coworkers now seem like huge and remarkable events. It’s not just the significant relationships that we miss either, it’s the seemingly unimportant ones- the chat with your local barista as he pours your morning latte, the discussion about the weather with your supermarket cashier, or the casual chitchat with someone waiting in line beside you.

The Internet has made the world a much smaller place and the myriad of ways that we can connect virtually have been a saving grace with real life connection unavailable. However, studies show repeatedly that as amazing as the 21st century online world is, it cannot meet the human need for a hug, a squeeze on the shoulder or a handshake.

Being touched and touching others are fundamental modes of human interaction.

Connection with people is an inherent aspect of our human society and this biological programming drives us to gather and thrive as social creatures.

The need for female connection

When it comes to women, there is even more of a need for this in-person connection.

From a young age as females, we are encouraged to nurture connections and friendships. From our first day of school to the day we enter the workplace, or when picking up children from school, we search for belonging and companionship in everyday life. As women we tend to have a better understanding of the importance of connecting with people, forming relationships and nurturing these bonds as we progress through the different stages of life.

Our ‘tribe’ of female friends are the pillars on which we so often rely heavily on, laugh with, cry with, celebrate with, look to for advice and share stories with. These are the women that we share deep conversations about all walks of life and feel seen, heard, understood. Cherishing these connections and making an effort to keep them alive is vital to our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.

The benefits of in-person social connections

There is no doubt that social connections are one of the most important factors when it comes to our wellbeing. Let’s explore four key benefits:

Social connections improve our health

When it comes to our health, most of us primarily focus on following a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and squeezing in those 8 cups of water a day. However, social connection is just as important as that green juice to keep yourself healthy and happy.

Believe it or not, loneliness and weak social connections have been shown to be as detrimental to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Other studies show that social connection is a greater determinant to health than obesity and high blood pressure.

The more connected you are with other people, the more enriched your life becomes. Social connections help to reduce stress, boost mood and foster a sense of meaning and purpose in life. While caring for your body and mind through healthy habits is important, establishing and maintaining social connections with others is important too.

Social connections improve our happiness

Connecting with people who have a positive outlook and can make you laugh have been proven to be extremely beneficial for our health and happiness. The more positive your relationships are, the better equipped you feel to meet the challenges that life may present.

Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community are happier, have lower levels of anxiety and depression and have fewer health problems. Remaining socially active combats loneliness and helps you to have a more positive outlook on life.

Social connections improve our mental health

Friendships offer a number of mental health benefits, such as increased feelings of belonging and purpose, increased levels of contentment and improved self-worth and self-confidence. A study in New York found that respondents with insufficient social support were more likely to suffer from mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.

When people accept you, consider you a friend, or show that they genuinely care, this reinforces your belief that you’re a valuable person. In the same way, when you feel like you belong, you are able to thrive and blossom. Having genuine social connections also gives you a feeling of security, especially when you belong to a supportive and loving social network.

Social connections increase our longevity

Research has shown that social connections not only impact our mental health, but our physical health as well. A review of over 300,000 people indicated that the individuals with stronger social relationships had a 50% increased likelihood of higher longevity. This remained true across a number of factors, including age, gender and health status.

Maintaining healthy relationships and also meeting new people is an important factor discovered between the various Blue Zones around the world. The world’s longest-living people have close friends and strong social networks. Sharing meals with people, talking honestly and making time for face-to-face connection is a huge part of life in these regions. Making new friends alone can boost your happiness by 15%.

The path forwards

It seems abundantly clear that right now, as we step into a new post-pandemic world, the need for in-person social connections and relationships is more important than ever before.

At The Palm Tree House, one of the most incredible and uplifting factors of any retreat is the close connection that the women form over their time together. Coming from all backgrounds and countries, all ages and interests, the guests on retreat come as strangers and leave as family.

Many of our female guests on our Bali retreats stay in touch long after they arrive back home and often return on ‘reunion retreats’ annually.

After running women’s retreats for over a decade, we know one thing for sure- women need women. Women love connecting, sharing and getting to know one another. We share stories, heartache, joy. We are compassionate, understanding and we come to realise our own place in the world more fully when we have other women by our side. We cheer-lead one another through life and we are there with open ears and open arms no matter the circumstance.

If you’re feeling a need and desire to connect with like-minded women in a safe, supportive, healthy and fun environment, join us at The Palm Tree House. Either come solo and find yourself surrounded by new female friends, or set some dates with women in your life that you love for a special and memorable retreat journey side by side. Contact Us here.

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