Life is busy. We are busier than ever with work, school, after-school activities, non-stop texts and emails, events, commitments with extended family and friends, caring for aging parents, doctor appointments, church, trying to get (or stay) in shape, community groups, yard work, home improvements, laundry. The list goes on and on. It is no wonder we feel more alone, isolated and disconnected than ever. There is very little time for true connection in a world that does not stay still long enough to truly connect.
Why is it important to connect? God created us for connection. He did not create us to be alone. Genesis 2:18 states, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” The experiences we have and the things we learn from a healthy relationship are a reflection of the connection God wants to have with us. He uses those relationships in our lives to show us more of Him. Having relationships also gives us the opportunity to demonstrate God’s love to others in how we love and care for them. So, how do we create connection in a world that does not seem to have time for connection? Below are five simple ways to increase connection that will positively impact your life.
Get filled up with God
We need to first connect with our Creator. Take time to get quiet and spend time with God. Share your fears, concerns and praises with Him and ask Him to give you his guidance and peace. Pray for your spouse and your children daily, read and meditate on His Word and ask God to reveal how He sees you and others. Choose forgiveness and ask God to give you His grace to see others through His eyes. It is much easier to love others when we are filled up with His love and have a heart that is softened for others. Once we are filled up, we can begin to pour love out and fill up our family and friends. A couple of ways to build connection with God are to read a daily devotional (I recommend Choose Life: 365 Readings for Radical Disciples by Simon Guillebaud) or to subscribe to a daily devotional on-line (such as Proverbs 31 ministries) that delivers a devotional to your inbox every day.
Date your spouse
Tending to your closest and most important relationship can seem like just another job on an already long to-do list. It is very difficult to sustain love and connection through the day-to-day grind of work, family and other obligations. The best gift you can give your kids is to have a strong, loving marriage. So date your spouse. Couples who spend time alone each week have more than three times higher levels of happiness, positive communication and sexual satisfaction than those who do not spend that time together. It does not have to be expensive or elaborate; it just needs to be time alone together. The dates could even be at home once the kids are in bed. You could have a candlelit dinner and play some nice music while you talk to each other. Never stop being curious about each other. A little investment and small changes in how you treat your spouse will help cushion your relationship from the daily demands of life and will provide an invaluable connection.
Eat dinner as a family
Eating dinner together as a family is extremely important for family connection and it has numerous benefits. Family dinners strengthen family bonds and give children a sense of security and a feeling of belonging. Studies have shown a significant link between family dinners and higher academic performance. A research study of 5000 teenagers found that when children eat with their parents regularly, they are more likely to be emotionally stable, better adjusted, have better manners and have good communication skills. Wow! All that just from sitting down together for family dinners.
When having a family dinner, try “the rose and the thorn” game. Every person in the family (including the parents) takes a turn and says the best and worst part of their day. This activity gives everyone a chance to share, it helps other family members be better listeners, it gives everyone a chance to encourage, congratulate or be compassionate for one another and it provides opportunity for connection!
Make time to have fun
Connection is great for emotional support and getting through hard times together but connection is also great for enjoying life together. In the English Standard Version of the Bible, the words “joy,” “rejoice” and “joyful” appear 430 times. Psalm 32:11 says, “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice O righteous and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.” God created us for connection AND to be joyful. Therefore, have fun with those you love! Take time away from the “tornado of life” and be intentional in choosing to enjoy your family and friends. This does not require fancy vacations or expensive outings. Have a game night, make ice cream sundaes at home, take a family bike ride or just have some fellowship around a good meal.
Practicing gratitude is an easy thing to do with huge benefits. Write down four things you are thankful for every day and try to write new things each day. This practice will actually train your brain to look for and take notice of the good things in your life and in the world and it will cause you to change how you perceive certain situations. For example, when your sister-in-law invites you over for dinner, rather than focusing on the time it is taking out of your schedule and maybe not loving the food that was served, practicing gratitude would allow you to be thankful that you did not have to cook or shop for groceries after a long day. Studies have shown that people who practice gratitude experience more positive emotions, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness and are more satisfied in life.
Gratitude seems to be the cure to two very big problems in our society — a propensity towards “the grass is greener” and living in a society where we do not truly see each other. Practicing gratitude allows us to see the good in what is right in front of us rather than having wandering eyes looking for something better. Appreciating what we have encourages connection. It also encourages us to pause for a moment and actually think about and appreciate the people around us. We get to truly see and focus on the people in our lives rather than take them for granted in the chaos of life.
Life is better when we have connection. God created us for connection. Make a promise to yourself this holiday season that you will not get swept up in the “tornado of life” but that you will take the time to connect. Be intentional about it. Connect with God, connect with your spouse, connect with your children, connect with those most important to you. If you are lonely, seek community by joining a life group, a Bible study, a book club or maybe even a sports league in your neighborhood. Reach out in gestures of kindness to others in your community. Focusing on being a blessing to others will bless you exponentially. Let that light inside of you shine brightly for all to see.
Dr. Robin Delaney is a licensed marriage and family therapist at Life Resources, a non-profit Christian emotional and relational wellness center located in Mount Pleasant, S.C. For more information about Dr. Delaney and Life Resources, visit their website at www.myliferesources.org.