I sit here surrounded by boxes as I prepare to move.
I have lived in my house for 11 years now. It is where I first settled after going through a divorce, where I have seen my daughter go through her preteen and teen years and then go off to college, it is where I have had many good and some not so good memories.
I had created a home and nested here, fixing it up to my liking. So why did I feel a desire to pack up and sell my home?
It took me a year to make this decision, as I really thought I would be here indefinitely. I struggled with the comfort of what I know and what could be. So what was it that made me finally pack all my belongings up, and move cities?
What I realized was the need for more social contact. Even though where I have lived has been great in so many ways – good schools for my daughter, stores and amenities close by, lots of trees and parks, bike lanes – and I felt safe here, it lacked community. So I started researching areas that have community and found what I was looking for. It may not have all the above that I mentioned but I know it has community.
Why is this so important?
You see, as human beings we are built to connect, to join. There was an interesting study done in the 1950s by Harlow – in fact the study is called Harlow’s Monkeys. He did many different studies on social isolation and attachment. Yes, we are different than monkeys, but we do have a lot of similarities, as well. We learn a lot about behavior from them.
So, Harlow took newborn monkeys away from their mothers, hungry and isolated. They were given a choice of a bottle on a wire base or a terrycloth on the same type of wire base.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I am hungry I am very focused on, ‘Don’t get in my way – I need to eat’. However these monkeys choose the terrycloth over the bottle. Also, the researchers found that monkeys that were socially isolated showed psychological stress and emotional disturbances. Monkeys, just as we do, need social contact – community. People who are socially isolated are more likely to suffer depression, more likely to get physically sick, as their immune systems are weaker, and more likely to struggle with life situations.
We feel safer when we know we have people around us who care, that we can rely on. What makes this challenging is that we are also in a time with a prevalent mentality of “get what you can,” and “take care of yourself first.”
So how do we work through this dilemma? It is not easy.
If we go back to Steinbeck’s generation – the early 1900s – you had to rely on your neighbors. In fact, without them you were lucky to survive. Nowadays most of us do not need anyone to survive physically or financially, but we still do to survive emotionally. We thrive on emotional contact; it is good for us to rely on others.
Don’t just take my word for it – there have been many studies showing this. Attachment is so important that it’s lack can be the cause of many psychological issues – depression, anxiety, personality disorders, poor relationships and addiction, just to name a few. So say “hi” to your neighbors, check on that elderly person down the road, and smile at those you pass. You are improving your and others’ health, and emotional states. It is really that simple.
These are all the reasons I was willing to give up the safety of my home to find somewhere that I know has community.