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Learn & Practice

Tuesday Tip: Celebrate a Month of Connection

By The Healthy Minds Team

In this week’s Tuesday Well-Being Tip, can we expand our capacity to connect in February?

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

The sun came out today in Healthy Minds Innovations’ home base of Madison, WI following a pretty gray January. The symbolism of the end of a month of gray, cold snow (January) moving to the month of friendship, love and connection (February) with a sunny day may be just symbolism, but it is welcome symbolism.

In honor of this shift, we’re going to spend February focused on the second pillar of the Healthy Minds Framework for well-being  – Connection. In the pillar of connection, we strengthen the skills of appreciation, kindness and compassion – in service of cultivating healthy relationships – even with yourself. 

Exploring connection can elicit feelings of warmth for yourself, close friends and family. But you can really start to change your mind when you actively build the skill of extending kindness to people beyond your immediate circle. Extending kindness beyond your immediate circle can also support anti-racist work as you break down your own implicit biases – a perfect opportunity to extend connection in celebration of Black History Month during February.

Our founder, Dr. Richard Davidson explains in one of our lessons in the Healthy Minds Program app:

When you’re walking down the street and you stroll past some random person, you probably don’t give them a second thought. The fact that you see them and notice their presence is evidence that this interaction is registered somewhere in your brain, but those brain regions don’t trigger activity in the brain’s care network, as they would if you suddenly ran into a close friend.

But they could, with a little training.

If you train your mind to notice these interactions, and you shift your perspective by imagining that this random person is a friend, or you think a kind phrase and wish them well, you’ll activate that care network. The more these brain circuits become active as the same time, the more automatic this new pairing will become. Eventualy it won’t take any effort at all. It will just happen.

Dr. Richard Davidson

Can we all take Dr. Davidson’s advice and train our minds to extend kindness? Let’s kick off February with a few kindness “to-dos”:

  • Silent Phrases. In Dr. Davidson’s example you can leverage your daily walk, even while maintaining a six foot distance. As you walk by an individual, silently wish them well and add a smile – even if you’re doing your best to physically avoid them, you can still socially connect.

  • Send some Kindness Valentines. Everyone loves getting mail that isn’t a bill – why not send a note of kindness this Valentine’s day? You don’t have to be a kid to send a Valentine to someone who could use a boost.

  • Get out of your “in-group.” To truly change your mind, send kindness outside of your inner circle. Expand your feelings of warmth and connection to break down barriers of geography, race, culture and background. In honor of Black History Month, we can all build the skill of kindness outside our circle, with this 10 minute active meditation (try it on your next walk).

Let’s do all we can to imbue this month with appreciation, kindness and compassion – whether it’s to move past a gray winter, open our hearts outside our circle to break down barriers for Black History Month, or to spread a little kindness in addition to hearts and flowers. Good luck and Happy Connection February!

Get more practices and tips by downloading the Healthy Minds Program App, freely available thanks to the generosity of our donors wherever you get your apps.

Healthy Minds Program App Tuesday Tips Well-Being Tips