A recent study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University and presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience seemed to prove that friendship has benefits beyond the emotional. In studying treatments for peripheral neuropathy, a pain and numbness of the hands and feet that’s a side effect of diabetes and one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States, researchers found that lab mice paired with a cage-mate experienced far less pain from nerve damage than those who were caged alone. Mice who had “friends” had higher thresholds for pain; they also experienced reductions in inflammation. The lonely mice were just lonely.
Coming out of winter’s cold, the earth thaws and so do we. Winter naturally keeps us introspective. Spring, on the other hand, brings out our natural ability to connect and communicate with others.
Here is a simple and elegant system of conscious communication called co-listening, which supports both speaker and listener in clearer, deeper, more connected exchanges. In this model, one person agrees to be the speaker, the other, the listener. For three minutes the speaker simply speaks, expressing his/her feelings, thoughts, and ideas. The listener as the witness remains in silence. When the three minutes are up—use an egg timer or alarm—shift roles. Repeat this for two or three rounds as needed. Regularly used, new depth can be established.
Freedom is offered to both participants. Without comments from another, even well-intended ones, a speaker opens into a fuller range of expression. The listener is freed up to be present, rather than calculating a response. By practicing being present in the moment during communication, deeper connectivity can be reached.