Reviewer: Queenie Lee Loneliness is an emotional state that we have whenwe're feeling disconnected.
But our need for connectionis ingrained in our DNA.
Loneliness is a signal, just like fight-or-flight, that something isn't right.
Loneliness is a public health crisis.
But one in five Americanssuffer from loneliness, which means if you haven'tpersonally suffered from loneliness, it's almost guaranteedthat somebody you know closely has.
It can cause depression, and it can even lead to premature death.
But now more than ever, we're living alone, we're spending more time online and less time makingmeaningful in-person connections.
So when emotional storms hit, things like losing a job, or going through a divorce, or a death, instead of leaningin towards our communities, we've learned to suffer alone.
So today I'm going to offer one solution that will bring us more connectionand can help cure the epidemic.
When I was a kid, I had a really hard time fitting in.
I wanted to do whatever I couldto belong and to not feel lonely; all I wanted was to find connection.
So my oh-so-wise adolescent selfcame up with a solution: I was going to be popular.
I carried this thought processthroughout my teens.
But the problem was the more I wanted to be popular, the more it fueled my needfor attention and approval.
And when I was 20 years old, as fate would have it, auditions for MTV's reality showthe Real World came into town.
Now, for a girl still starvingfor approval and attention, this was my ticket.
Now, for some of uswhen we think about reality TV, we don't really havethat strong of a reaction: never really watched it, don't quite getwhat all the fuss is about.
But for others of us we do have a strong reactionwhen we think about reality TV, and we generally fallinto one of two camps.
The first camp is, like, you literally could not pay me enoughto go on a reality TV show.
In fact, reality TV is everythingthat is wrong with our society today.
And then the second campis, like, “Go on a reality TV show? “Honey, I should havemy own reality TV show.
(Laughter) I would be the next Snooki, for sure.
” But with a history like mine, I'll give you one guesswhich camp I fell into.
And at 21 years old, I moved to Brooklyn as part of “seven strangerspicked to live in a house.
” I love this quote by Jim Carrey; he says, “I think everybodyshould get rich and famous and do everythingthey ever dreamed of, so they can seethat it's not the answer.
” But how many of youhave gone after a goal based off of the feelingsyou thought you would feel once you accomplish that goal? The Real World didn't bring meconnection like I thought it would.
In fact, if anything, I was lonelier than I had ever been during those “15 minutes of fame.
” But this lesson propelled meinto the work I do now: studying connection.
And whether it's the events I produceor the show that I host, or the coaching sessions I have, everything exists to create connection, because here I am now, my oh-so-wise adult self, searching for what actuallycreates connection.
And here's what I found.
In order to feel connected we need to feel seen, heard, and valued.
You may have heard of Blue Zones.
Blue Zones are areas all over the world where researchers have found that people livedthe longest and happiest lives.
So everybody does this differently.
Communities in, like, Loma Linda, California; Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; some pray together, while others, they walk together, and others simply spend more time nurturing relationshipswith their families.
But the one thingthat they all do in common is they prioritize connection.
They focus on their relationships.
What I found is that these societieshave created something that I call an “anchor of connection.
” An anchor is created simplyby spending quality time with people who see, hear and value you.
But Baya, how do we createour own anchors of connection? I'm so glad you asked.
(Laughter) The most powerful wayto create an anchor is through ritual.
Now, I know when we think about ritual, we generally think aboutreligion or sacred ceremony.
But today I want to redefine ritual as something that's notnecessarily religious or sacred but instead somethingthat we're already doing on a day-to-day basis.
The key to making ritualsuch a powerful tool for connection is that ritual is repeated action plus intention.
When you combinerepeated action and intention, ritual becomes ingrained in youjust like habits do.
The best places to find ritualare with your friends and families, in your intimate relationships, and within your communities.
Now, we've been gatheringaround fires forever to storytell and connect.
For me and my girlfriends, our couches act as the metaphorical firethat we gather around.
Every Monday night we throw on our leggings, we head to one of our houses, we pour ourselves some rosé, we pile onto the couch, and we just talk.
We've ritualized Monday nightsas a time where we come to connect and fill our tanksfor the rest of the week.
And while plenty of Mondays, we're coming and we're talkingabout the things that are exciting and going well in our lives; but on lots of Mondayswe come with our tanks empty, whether that's the small stormsthat have built up, just daily wear and tear, or the bigger storms, like going through a divorceor a miscarriage.
But whether we're grievingor celebrating, we've ritualized Monday nightsas our anchor of connection.
After Monday nightsI head over to my partner's house, and we have a ritual that we've been doingfor the past year or so, where before bed, we each say:the thing I love about you most today is.
And then we both say somethingreally kind about one another.
Now, easy enough to dowhen we're feeling in love, not that easy to do when we're in a fight.
In fact, when we first started this, and we were in a fight, and I would be angry, it would generally look like this.
“Hey babe, do you want to do the thingI love about you most?” “No.
” (Laughter) “Okay.
Do you want to just, like, try it?” “Pssss, not right now.
I'm not in the mood.
Maybe just, maybe just once.
The thingI love about you most today is how your eyes sparklewhen you're wrong and I'm right.
” (Laughter) But what I could have never guessedthis ritual would do is expand my capacityfor kindness and compassion.
And now, when we're in a fight, sometimes I even say the thingI love about him most, first.
It's this ritual that has carried usthrough our storms.
So when our fightscould just as easily disconnect us and leave us both feeling lonely, instead, we've ritualizedour anchor of connection.
You know, it's interesting, now that I know what Blue Zones are, whenever I'm traveling, I'm always lookingfor Blue Zone qualities.
And recently, I took a trip to Francewith some of the same girlfriends who I spent Monday nights with.
Landing in Paris was amazing and exactly like you thinkit was if you've never been – the cobblestone streets, the shutters, the windowsills with the flowers, the bakeries whispering: “Screw you, gluten-free diet;you're not welcome here.
” (Laughter) In France, meals are rituals.
So, dinners for instance, they start later and last longer, and whether it's two people or ten people, you sit down and you enjoy the mealfor at least two hours, and usually three.
The food takes a long time, no phones are out.
And when the meal is over, you sit and you talk some more.
Day in and day out, the French go back to the tablefor their ritualized anchor of connection.
Our last stop in France was Nice.
We arrived 12 hoursafter the Bastille Day attack, where the truck driverdrove through the fireworks celebration, tragically killing 84 people.
It would have been so easyfor everybody to retreat, to disconnect, to suffer alone.
But instead, what we saw were storefronts and restaurantsopening their doors.
And even just 12 hoursafter a complete tragedy, people went back to the table.
They went back to their ritual.
We weren't in the moodto go out that night.
So we went back to the apartment.
We put on our leggings, we poured ourselves some rosé, we piled onto the couch, and we just talked.
We went back to our ritual.
Because in the face of a storm, in the face of disaster, in the face of complete tragedy, ritual acts as your anchor of connection.
Now, my core desireto be liked and approved of, it might never go away, just like your core desiresmight not either.
But what I know now that I didn't knowwhen I was 20 years old, praying that the real worldwas my answer to loneliness and my ticket to connection, is that connection isn't createdby the things we go get.
Connection is createdby the things we go back to.
So my invitation to you today is simple: Don't do something new.
Find something you're already doingwith your friends and families, or in your intimate relationships, or within your communities.
And do that thingover and over and over again.
Do it with intention.
Do it during the good timesand do it during the mundane.
So when the inevitableemotional storms hit, you have your ritual to go back to; you have your very ownanchor of connection.