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10 Ways to Increase Connection with Yourself and Others

Brené Brown defines connection as "the energy that exists between two people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship."

This week, at Green Door Therapy, we completed our 6 week women's group focused on topics related to "cultivating connection with yourself and others." During our last group, we brainstormed as a community some top ways to practice connection summarized in the guide below.

1. Regularly check-in with your body. 

Take some time every day to notice how your physical body feels. Is your jaw clenched? Are your shoulders tense? Does your stomach feel upset? Noticing physical symptoms can be a way to get more information about how you’re doing so you can give yourself something you need in the moment, even if it’s just the small act of stopping to briefly stretch your tense body.

2. Develop a self-care practice.

Start with a simple (and not so simple sometimes too!) daily practice where you write down your responses to… “I need…, I want…, I feel…” Once you start to recognize some of the things you are needing and feeling, you can advocate for yourself and take action towards self-care.

3. Take time for you! 

Whether it’s going to therapy, investing in a hobby, or embracing alone time… you deserve time to focus on your own well-being and growth.

4. Consider: What did I do to make my day better?

It's easy to get caught up in a bad mood or feel some sort of distress and forget that you can be empowered to change the situation, look at it in a different way, or use a different perspective to get ourselves un-stuck. There are also times where feeling “miserable” is a valid choice and if you let yourself feel that, you often can find your way out of distress sooner. If you want to feel a certain way, what have you done to create that feeling for yourself?

5. Practice effective communication with others.

Use a skill like “DEAR MAN” to help with difficult conversations. You can use “DEAR MAN” as a template to remind yourself to… describe the facts, express your feelings, assert your needs, and reinforce the other person when you are having a conversation asking someone for something you need or trying to set a boundary. More information on this skill from Dialectical Behavior Therapy can be found by searching “DEAR MAN DBT” online.

6. Ask for things.

In Amanda Palmer’s book “The Art of Asking,” she talks about how “asking is an act of intimacy.” Asking is often a stressful thing to be avoided. Its easy to forget that when you ask someone for something with gratitude and vulnerability, it can be a powerful way to connect.

7. Identify and set boundaries.

Boundaries is a broad topic and truly a game changer when it comes to connection. A definition of boundaries can simply be “what’s ok and what’s not ok.” This can relate to boundaries you have with how you share and spend money, how you use your time, what your relationships feel like, personal space rules, and so much more. Once you define your boundaries, you can take steps to set them in meaningful ways.

8. Give yourself permission.

The permission slip exercise from Brené Brown is a way to embrace your humanness and let go of some unrealistic expectations or unhelpful beliefs. Writing yourself a permission slip to “enjoy the moment” or “take a break” can be a great way to practice connection to yourself.

9. Remember: all of the things you do for yourself, you are also doing for others.

One of the best things you can do for your partners, friends, and people you are in relationship with is… take care of yourself. When you engage in personal self-connection, you bring your fuller self to the people in your life. Instead of having expectations that others will “fill your empty cup,” you can interact in healthier ways.

10. Cultivating connection with yourself and others is a practice.

True connection involves vulnerability and can be very difficult at times. We will all find ourselves stuck in unhelpful patterns and bring ourselves back to practicing self-care, boundary setting, and asking-- often over and over again. Don’t forget: you are an imperfectly awesome human who will always be striving to find ways to improve connection to yourself and others!


Blog post written by Bridget Caragher, LCSW in collaboration with Brooke Madera, LCPC, CADC and the group members of Green Door Therapy's Fall 2019 "Art of Asking Women's Group."

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