A Cross-Country Journey of Healing Through Connection

An experiment in moments

In today’s society, so many of us feel isolated.

We pass by one another on the sidewalk; stand behind one another in the grocery store; sit next to one another on the train– yet we feel separate. We feel detached. We feel lonely.

This disconnect is making us sick, literally—over 60 million Americans feel so isolated that their health is damaged in ways that mirror the effects of high blood pressure, smoking and obesity.

Our bodies crave connection,

so why is it that people are becoming increasingly more lonely?

Why is it that we are often praised for independence, instead of being acknowledged for reaching out and connecting.

Just as we need food and water for survival, humans need connection to maintain health and longevity. Our evolutionary past proves that our survival is dependent on our collectivity.

Today, we no longer live as our ancestors did, but our brains and bodies still remain wired to connect. We need one another to thrive, for our emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. A sense of belonging is deeply rooted within us, enabling us to feel truly alive and connected to our ourselves, our communities, and our world.

Being part of keeps us well.

We invite you to put down the phone, turn off the devices, and step back into humanity – alive, awake, and connected.

Welcome to the home of The Connection Cure, a cross-country human engagement project that explores face-to-face connection as a catalyst for healing and wellness.

Our nationwide workshops and connection conversations ignite the spirit, create conversation about our bodies, and aim to de-stigmatize loneliness in our increasingly disconnected society.

Already connected

The Connection Tour

From Wyoming, with love 1.25.19

In my workshops, I often talk about the power of sharing and receiving the story of a micro-moment – a brief genuine exchange, not just with a friend or loved one, but even with a stranger. Social Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson coined the term micro- … read more

From Colorado, with love 1.19.19

Hi friends! It’s been quite some time since I’ve written from the road, and for that, I owe you all an apology. This project has been so many things for me, and in the midst of all those things, it’s also been radically difficult. I find it hard to wri … read more

From Idaho, with love 10.24.18

The N train that takes you from Manhattan into Brooklyn is pure magic –– between Atlantic Avenue and Canal Street the train moves above ground. It’s this epic opening from darkness into blue sky, grey sky, or rainy sky. During this time you’re gifted t … read more

From Weeki Wachee, Florida, with love 10.11.18

The Connection Cure visits legendary Mermaid Vicki in Weeki Wachee, Florida read more

Dark Circles and Definitions 9.11.18

Yesterday morning when I woke up, the first thing I did was look in the mirror. Over the years, this is how I have measured my level of wellbeing; the color of the underbelly of my eyes directly correlates to how sick I feel on any given day. It’s my b … read more

From Las Vegas, with love 9.11.18

The Connection Cure visits the New Vista Ranch, a non-profit organization that supports and empowers youth and adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities read more

Share your moments

#connectioncure

  • Those of you who’ve been in online class with me this week have heard me mention this lovely human @lisadaron “#Repost
・・・
The way we connect is shifting right now. It’s scary because it’s new and unknown. It’s scary because we are being asked to identify that we NEED connection and then we have to take the action steps to reach out. For so many of us, we’ve been living lives where we have been ‘forced’ to interact and now we are being asked to seek interaction. 
Here is the good news. Our bodies’ were designed to notice when we need love. It’s a subjective feeling that sends a message from our body to our brain, telling us to phone a friend, send a fax, a snail mail, a FaceTime. We are entering a time now where we have less distraction which means that there is more time to notice, more time to identify a lonely feeling when it arises, and more time to find creative ways to act on it.
However, this doesn’t mean these feelings don’t suck. They do. Feeling lonely hurts. It was designed that way as the human body evolved so we would be forced to return to our communities for our survival as a species. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here when I say that, this time is upon us again. So many of us are scared, agitated, angry, confused, and it’s easy when we’re confronted with these feelings to distract ourselves. It’s easy to ignore the alarm inside asking us to reach out, to Skype someone we love, for the sake out of cells and our souls. 
But, I believe we are being given an opportunity to change our relationship with our bodies, to not fear our loneliness, to see and notice what we ignore. 
Connection is not on pause. Have micro-moments, have macro-moments. Let’s remember and use the benefits of technology. I believe these interactions can help. They are proven to boost our immune systems. They shift our moods. They help us heal by seeing and being seen. Genuine interactions, however deep or brief, will stop the feeling of social pain and calm our nervous systems down, collectively. 
Let’s use one another as daily vitamins and remember that we are not alone in our loneliness. .
.
.
.📷 fam: @sister.moon.wellness”
  • On the plane flying back to Oregon the pilot came over the intercom to let us know that we were delayed because of wind. It was up to 25 knots which meant that take-off would be “rather bumpy.” I don’t do well flying. In fact, before I fly I look at the weather in every single state I’m about to fly over. I think about turbulence for days before I even get to the airport. So, as we were grounded before take-off my anxiety began to build. The man sitting next to me, an empty seat in between us, looked over at me and chuckled. “We’re still on the ground,” he reminded me, which didn’t help at all. But as we stayed grounded he kept glancing over at me as my anxiety rose. When we finally took off it was waaaay more than bumpy and as we ascended the plane shook violently, my body shaking along with it. Just then, the man next to me, whose name I don’t even know, reached his arm across the empty seat, an offering for me to hold on without saying a word. The plane kept shaking and by this point I was in tears, terrified, and before I knew it I was squeezing this strange mans hand with all my might, and to my surprise, he just kept holding on for the next twenty minutes until the plane quieted. When he pulled his hand away he looked at me and smiled (while rubbing his hand from the pain). I quietly thanked him as he put his headphones on, turning to smile at me every half hour or so until we landed. Before we said goodbye we hugged. We never had a real conversation, we never asked one another’s names, but his kindness is something I think of almost daily. The science shows that human touch is proven to reduce our experiences of pain, and lately it has me thinking, with all that is going on in this world, how simple it is to hug someone, to put a hand out and see if our neighbor needs to grab on. #connectioncure
  • Today is day 400 on the road! 400 days without a residence, 400 days living out of suitcases, 400 days of the unknown, 400 days of challenging everything I thought was impossible, 400 days of increasing the vulnerability I have with myself and waking up to the ways in which i struggle deeply within. It’s been 400 days of an increasing familiarity with my whole self, expanding and challenging the tucked away parts to feel more, to learn more, to love more, to be loved more. 400 days of an emotional becoming. A becoming that I could never quite process because in analyzation it becomes stagnantion but in presence it remains a desire that I’ll never stop longing for. The unfolding. .
.
.
.
#connectioncure
📸: @home.sweet.idahome
  • I’m getting good at alone and not lonely. I’m reveling in a seven hour drive without the radio. I’m challenging myself to technology free solo dinners in crowded restaurants. I’ve visited my fourth National Park without anyone beside me in the passenger seat or walking next to me on the hiking trail. Someone said to me recently, “my heart aches for you being out here all alone,” and it was a perfect moment because out here my heart doesn’t ache as much as i remember it once aching. Nothing before and nothing ahead, just what I am and what you are in the waking hours that are enough. The value of shedding my millions of masks and being all that is left. .
.
.
.
#connectioncure
  • I keep coming back to Idaho because it grounds me. So many things I touch and see and learn here wake me up. The earth under my feet remind me that we're part of something so vast––that there is an interconnectedness to all things, that we have a responsibility to take care of all parts, that the earth is a resource but also an extraordinary beauty that needs to be nurtured as much as it nurtures us. Being in Idaho wakes me up to where my food comes from, who grows the potatoes I eat when I order my french fries, who picks the strawberries I buy in a plastic package, who are the people that work everyday to keep these foods abundant? These are the people and the moments of interconnection I want to keep acknowledging. I keep coming back to Idaho because it brings me back to the earth, to the simple thoughtful moments that bind us. Here in Idaho I get to slow down. I have the time to be aware of all the learning I need to do, in every moment, from every person, in every landscape, now and throughout history. Here I have more space to laugh, to put on cowboy hats, to go to rodeos, county fairs, walk down abandoned railroad tracks, swim in rivers, and say hello to everyone I pass by at the grocery store. It's a place that gives me silence, rest, adventure, space. 
Until next time, St. Anthony. 
Onward to Montana: Bozeman, Billings, Kalispell, Whitefish, Sandpoint (ID), Seattle, and Portland! More adventures to have and more moments to learn from. #connectioncure
📸: @home.sweet.idahom
  • These are 52 of IIT’s student leaders. For the last two days we’ve been talking about loneliness and connection, practicing and processing ways that we can implement and de-stigmatize the conversation around loneliness, and creating more community and connection for first-year students and themselves. They’ve been vulnerable in their storytelling. They have challenged themselves and left “exhausted from being honest.” They have given me hope. IIT has been my biggest education on the road. It is these young, smart, and wise minds (growing up in these unbelievably difficult times) who truly know the challenges that we are facing. It is these young and wise hearts who despite these challenges have a strong desire to impact the world. With 30% of Gen Z soon to be in the work force, with 60% of them wanting to positively impact the world, 52% valuing honesty as the most important quality, 81% aspiring to be leaders, they are the future. Zoom in on these faces. I truly believe that this is what hope looks like. They are creating the change we need right now. From 40 different states and 30 different countries, IIT is an ideas and impact incubator and as one student said, “every time I sit down with a group of strangers it’s like taking a tour of the world.” I’m so glad they are our future. #connectioncure
  • Today was one of the highlights of my life. It's also my one year full-time on the road anniversary! If anyone would have told me a year ago that I would be doing a student leadership training and a freshman orientation keynote at the Illinois Institute of Technology (or anywhere for that matter), I would have laughed in their face. This last year has been so hard. There have been so many tears, so many moments where I wanted to give up, so many people that doubted me, challenged me, and so many more moments that I doubted myself. I've been so lonely AND so connected. I've been so lost AND so at home. I've challenged myself physically in ways I never thought my body could take. I've challenged my beliefs around what I thought was possible. I took a seed of an idea and I decided to make it my entire life because I've never believed in anything more. This year has been so hard, but today it all made sense. Speaking to the freshman class about loneliness, increasing our face to face connection, evolution, science, and the cognitive benefits of looking at one another (all as an integral part of their first week of college)...this is my why. Listening to their stories, not being alone in our loneliness, talking about a topic that is surrounded by so much stigma, but actually TALKING about it, moved me more than I have the words to express. People will doubt you, you will doubt yourself, people will challenge you, dislike you even, sometimes you might even dislike yourself (i sometimes do), but if there is one teeny tiny grain within you that believes in what you're doing and who you are, stay the course. It took a year of full-time on the road life (to the exact day) for me to see this project bloom. It took three years of working on this project for me to finally say I'm proud of myself, and it took 38 years for me to finally understand that this was my why. #connectioncure
  • Lately, I’ve been thinking about the edge of alone and lonely. I’ve been pondering how we can become more aware of the times when we’ve fallen over that edge, spiraling from the quietude of alone into the alarm of lonely. I’ve struggled with this line my entire life. I often want to go things alone, “pull up my bootstraps,” not be vulnerable around my need for love because the stigma feels so real, and also, I can handle things; I always have. And so historically I have numbed myself from hearing the alarm for love. I know it’s real now. It’s actually a part of our brain (the dorsal anterior cingular cortex) that lights up when we feel social pain—the same part of our brain that lights up when we feel physical pain. The more I ignore this alarm, the more I find myself walking through a room filled with smoke and pretending I don’t hear the call.

Also.

I can’t help but use this same analogy for the state of the country. It’s heartbreaking. I feel helpless as to what to do. Hopeless at times. Filled with rage. I spiral in the middle of the night spending hours reading the news, but somehow numbness is still possible. This is where the danger is for me. Walking through a smoke filled room and ignoring the alarm. This is how loneliness becomes chronic, and how hopelessness becomes inaction. This is not some sort of PSA. I don't know what to do except to learn what to do - keep learning and unlearning. To keep listening to people that do know. To vote. To vote. To vote. To donate. To have the conversations in grocery stores with strangers that scare me. To reach out. To talk about it. To share ideas. To volunteer time wherever I can. The alarm is blaring and the smoke is billowing out of the windows and amidst all this, somehow, I can’t forget that we can still have moments of joy and love because the body was designed to need these nutrients to keep us thriving. Our brains have an alarm for connection because we’re not meant to be in it alone. .
.
.
.
📸: @home.sweet.idahome #connectioncure
  • Lately, when people ask me what I do on the road I tell them I research loneliness. It’s taken awhile for me to get comfortable with this because it's not as shiny as connection, but when it comes down to the evolutionary biology of human relationships, loneliness is its precursor.
Some might argue this (and many have), but I believe we all have a loneliness story. I believe we’ve all had a moment (or many more) where we have felt left out, not a part of, like we don’t belong, like we long for more community, more meaningful conversations and connections. For me, the stigma of feeling lonely was so fierce for so long that I couldn't even fathom sharing my truth. So instead of naming it, I internalized it, which led to so many mind spirals. My loneliness story, as I'm learning on the road, is unique to me but united with so many, and I find so much beauty in this. 
I am not alone in my loneliness. 
I also believe that our loneliness stories open the door to engagement, a wake up call for support, where we face our need for love. Our bodies- from our cells to our neurons, our hearts to our nervous systems, our hormones to our immune systems - have been designed for we, not just for me. We are not meant to do this life without support and reciprocity. 
Why mention this all now? Because I'm back in Idaho, the place where I first began this full-time road journey a year ago, with friends who constantly remind me what support feels like. And as I look back, a meta view over the last three years, I can finally see how my loneliness story has taught me the most about love. #connectioncure
  • Tossing candy out of fire trucks while driving down country roads. Also known as, Idaho. 🔥
.
.
.
.
📸: @home.sweet.idahome #connectioncure
  • I spent yesterday afternoon at a dairy farm with Sarah, the cow queen of Colorado. We met for the first time seven months ago when she toured me through the farm. It was the dead of winter and I was trying to shake myself out of a funk, so I joined a kids tour a few hours outside of Denver. Sarah was the most cow knowledgeable human I never knew existed. Her spirit was just as she looks in the photos, filled with passion and excitement for all of life’s moments. I knew I had to come back and meet her a few weeks after the tour to sit over coffee and listen to her stories. And over that coffee a moment occurred when the door to trust opened and she shared some of her most profound life moments with me. I’ve been thinking about her ever since and counting down the days until I could return to see Sarah again, to record some of her stories and wisdom, and spend some time in the life of her. She astounds me. Human connection astounds me. Micro-moments astound me. 
Last night Sarah and I went camping just beside her home way up in the mountains in a tiny community off the beaten track. Without cell network we sat around a fire with her neighbors and shared our deepest moments. We watched for bears, we listened to the rain hitting the roof of the tent, and I occasionally woke her up in a panic with a, “is that bear?!” No she assured me. “It’s a bird.” #connectioncure
  • This summer I'm returning to the people and the micro-moments that have moved me. Suzanne and I met 7 months ago at a pie shop in Fort Collins, Colorado. The next day she invited me to church with her family and I agreed without any hesitation. That evening I found myself sitting with Suzanne and her family for my first church service at a small congregation in a strip mall in Colorado. During the service Suzanne would occasionally lean over and whisper in my ear, "are you ok? does this feel ok?" Social Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson would call this moment "mutual care," the third ingredient of a micro-moment. After our brains have coupled over a genuine positive exchange, our mirror neurons have fired, and we've experienced a moment of shared empathy, it becomes difficult to not mutually care about one another. We are, in fact, wired for connection. 
After I left Colorado Suzanne would check in on me as I continued my travels, sometimes sending me music that made her smile, other times just a "hi toots, thinking of you." Today I came back to this smiling face for pie and hugs, and a promise to sit down with her to record and listen to her stories. Being back here I can’t help but be amazed by how much love can exist in a single moment. #connectioncure #connectioncurecolorado

Share the Connection Cure