January is one of those months that seem to drag on forever. It’s cold, dreary and colorless. I for one was looking forward to January, if only even for the routine it brings after the hectic chaos of the holiday season.  

I don’t know about you, but something seems to have shifted in our collective consciousness whereby we don’t connect with each other like we used to.

Sometimes it feels like friendships and human connections in general have lost their importance in our lives when in fact they are the very thing we need most.

Everything wants to pull us more and more into a virtual world rendering our “humanness” obsolete. It seems that a lot of relationships are on autopilot, floundering and lacking any true substance (or reality for that matter).

A lot of people are just phoning it in, and the cracks of this reality are beginning to show.

I have been feeling it for a while now, but this disconnection seemed to culminate last December. I dare say that I never felt more alone than I did then.

Allow me to explain.

Every year, I take great pleasure in hand-making Christmas cards for my friends and family. Each message is unique to the recipient and each card has hand drawn art/doodles or calligraphy. It’s very time consuming, but giving of your time is the greatest gift you can give someone and I love doing it.

I imagine the person opening their mailbox and smiling, knowing that someone (me) really cares about them enough to do this. 

I sent out 50+ cards. Now I don’t expect the same thing in return, but I do hope that it will generate enough goodwill to get a happy phone call or at least an acknowledgement. After all, with two exceptions, all of the cards went to friends and family out of town and it would be so nice to catch up and have a good laugh because I haven’t been face-to-face with them in a long time.

I received four Christmas cards – two of them were from businesses that I use, and from the people I knew, one had just a signature and only one had a lovely note.

With very few acknowledgements, nobody seemed to care or reciprocate the exchange of love energy. Now call me crazy, but if a person has time to post on social media every day for the attention of complete strangers, it would seem you can spare time for someone who actually takes an interest in your life and cares about you.

I’m not sure if they changed or I changed or what changed but we’re clearly not in Kansas anymore.

It made me reevaluate my friendships, my definition of friendships and redirect my time and attention to those who reciprocate.  I viewed it as a form of de-cluttering my life.

And nobody is talking about it. Heck nobody is talking about anything anymore. 

It also made me really take note of who is there for me beyond an occasional funny meme. Life is getting harder and its people you can trust who you’ll need.

A text doesn’t have warmth, compassion or love. It doesn’t understand how you feel without saying a word, but a friend does and just like a garden, friendships need nurturing to grow. 

So there I was, confused and hurt and I went searching for answers or at least to find out if I was alone in thinking this way. 

A few keyword searches and clicks later and I came upon this video Why You Feel Dead Inside After 2020. I know that’s not the most motivating title in the world, but it did pique my interest, so I watched and more importantly I read the comments (often my favorite part of a video).

“The compassion fatigue with having constant access to the woes of the whole world is a huge factor”.

“I feel that the rug has been pulled out from underneath me. For ~30 years I had a somewhat optimistic view, and then I feel like our governments and leaders sold us out to the highest bidder. We’re just livestock, to be used and replaced, is what it feels like”.

“I feel super lonely due to social media. Nobody visits, they just send a message. I’m 53 and feel like a forgotten dinosaur”.

“The pandemic definitely changed me forever. Seeing different people’s response to it was maybe even more traumatizing than the effects of the sickness itself. It’s been all loss, financial struggle and mental exhaustion since then wherever you look. I have become a lot more cynical since then and feel like life will never be the same. I probably will never have that same enthusiasm or excitement for life I had before 2020”.

“There’s also no ‘third’ places. Growing up before the Internet, you went out to see people, went to friends houses, had friends over. Met them at places like the mall, a great restaurant, the movies, the beach, the lake, the pool, etc. A great bar or dance place. Those types of social interactions seem to be gone”.

Those are just a few comments out of over 5k.

Even though the topic and the comments were quite depressing, I was also relieved that others felt the same way I do. 

So now what?

You have to want to connect with people. You have to want to engage and it has to be reciprocal. You need to give undivided attention to the person during the time you are with them.

The reason none of us can concentrate anymore or have critical thinking skills is due to social media/internet. This video is so good at explaining it.

Not only is it making us less satisfied with what’s right in front of us, it’s making us bored and less able to communicate with each other. It also makes us more divided. It’s brainwashing you just like T.V. (but at least back in the day, you didn’t have a T.V. with you 24/7 like our phones with the internet today). 

As much as I talk to you about longevity and anti-aging topics, the one thing you can do that will increase your happiness in 2024 more than anything else is connecting with humans in a meaningful way.

Ask questions. Be curious about others. Check in. Pay-it-forward with kindness. Pay attention. Listen. Make time. Show up. 

By the way, that’s my new definition of a true friendship.

Human connection produces serotonin, the hormone that makes you feel satisfied, comforted and satiated in life. It’s sustainable happiness. 

Do you know what else produces serotonin?  

Self-care. Self-care is more than a buzzword, it’s deliberately taking care of your well being through deliberate activity.

Instead of making new resolutions which have a negative must do connotation to them, why not make a list of self-care activities instead? This enables a paradigm shift in your thinking.

Self-care feels more like a loving intent rather than a harsh command.

Why not create a self-care journal with activities, products, places and people that all contribute to your well being?

One of the things I did this month ticked off a few of my serotonin boxes; to give time to friends, to produce art (which I love) and to be in the moment. I feel God blessed me with a creative soul, knowing it would comfort and nurture me in this crazy world.

In the process of de-cluttering, I made a list in my journal of all the art projects I want to do this year and I’ll match them up with the special people I want to gift them to. It will be a happy surprise in the mail for sure!

I started making vision board collages of images that uplifted and inspired me and to remind me what is truly important. 

I almost want to create a Celtic Social Club just so we can connect more deeply and support each other 🙂

What about you? Do you have these feelings too? What are you doing differently this year? Reach out to me, I’d love to know.