Being There for Loved Ones Strengthens Your Connection

Human connection is a strange thing. It causes some of the most distinct highs and lows we can experience, and there aren’t many ways to isolate ourselves from the emotional ebb and flow of our social lives without withdrawing entirely. With today’s social landscape, truly being there for each other — rather than avoiding arguments on social media pages or interacting through one-off messages that go unanswered for days — can be a difficult thing to achieve.

Staying Connected From Afar

I moved to Boston from New Hampshire for college. Though it’s not far geographically, it was difficult to maintain close relationships with my loved ones at home. Instant messaging was a thing in 2005, but texting was tedious and expensive, and cellphone service was spotty.

Before I left for school, I’d watch “Survivor” with my mom and dad every week. As a former Girl Scout who took regular camping and fishing outings with my father, this reality TV paragon seemed like a perfect fit for us. While in school, I tried to register for classes that left “Survivor” night free and explained the situation to my roommate so I could control the TV. During commercials, I’d call my parents from the dorm phone.

This simple act reminded me that being there for each other isn’t about the location — it’s about the emotional support. Knowing my parents were a phone call away, and staying up to date on my life through our weekly ritual, got me through a difficult first semester. Though I eventually made solid friendships as my college career went on, the “Survivor” chats never lost their importance.

Emotional Closeness Helps Us Thrive

As it turns out, this is fairly normal. According to research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, phone calls with parents and other loved ones can be just as comforting as connecting face to face. When young girls were challenged with difficult math problems in front of an audience, biological anthropologist Leslie Seltzer reports, “The children who got to interact with their mothers had virtually the same hormonal response, whether they interacted in person or over the phone.”

Talking regularly to the people who care about your emotional well-being and are invested in your happiness and success makes you happier and more fulfilled, and these people should be considered everyday heroes. When a person sets energy aside to be there for you, don’t take it lightly. Everyone is busy with their own life and priorities, and the simple act of showing up, either when they say they will or when they’re needed, communicates that you’re important to them and that they’re invested in their connection with you.

Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out

Being there for them in return isn’t always simple. This is especially true for the introverts among us, whose emotional energy can be sparse and difficult to wrangle. But we can’t let that stop us. Being there for people, and allowing them to be there for us, doesn’t need to all-consuming.

I’m a planner, so having that weekly scheduled phone call with my parents worked best for me. I’m now nearly a decade removed from college, and “Survivor” is approaching its 35th season. (It was in its second season when my parents and I began watching.) I still get together with my folks for dinner and a weekly dose of Jeff Probst.

If you’re a planner like me, put some time on your calendar to Skype or FaceTime with a friend you don’t see as often as you’d like. But planning might not be your style, and that’s OK. Either way, it’s much easier to stay connected now than it was in 2005. Seriously. Just make a call. Seeing loved ones in person usually feels best to me, but just getting them on the phone and talking about your lives will likely help you feel better about any challenges you’re facing, and it can easily lead to getting together for coffee or dinner. Keeping up with them on social media is also an option, but I think it’s nicer to find more personal ways to stay in touch.

No matter how you approach it, there’s no sense in letting the deep connections you make with people slip away simply because you feel busy or emotionally drained. Most of us could make those excuses, but like with nearly everything in life, how you spend the bulk of your time is a choice. So choose to be there.