How to Feel Happier and more Connected: a Hands-On Guide [Part 1]


We all thrive on feeling connected. It feeds our soul and validates our existence. The recent and explosive development of digital technology and social media fed into the hope that we need never be out of touch again.

So, what an irony then that the more in touch we are in this way, the more dis-connected and lonely we have come to feel - separated from each other and unacknowledged by each other, which in turn leads to stress, anxiety or depression and more suffering. We are biologically wired to need each other. We are also not separate from the larger world.

I wonder whether the time we spend in offices and our excessive engagement in a virtual world, actually drives us to become disconnected from ourselves in the very first place.

Maybe then, the journey to contentment through fulfilling our innate need to connect with others and the world beyond ourselves, will come first through a very personal and literal re-membering - a reconnecting of our attention with our physical experience of life.

Creative people in particular, cannot express themselves fully without a constant engagement of their visual and tactile (or kinaesthetic) senses.

Instead, more and more of us are reducing the use of our marvellously versatile hands to repetitive movements of just finger and thumb.

How to Reconnect…

In practical terms I am suggesting that we do 2 things to make the journey back home to ourselves. Reconnecting with ourselves will make us more grounded, more present and as a result naturally more connected to others.

1.      Role up your sleeves and connect with what your hands are doing: spend more time making and doing.

2.      Put on your boots, step out and walk through landscape.

The exploration of the material world through the engagement of our hands and eyes, in combination with the movement of our bodies are essential for bringing us back home to ourselves as well as for developing our real intelligence. Intelligence is only of real worth in as much as it is connected to the physical world and our place in it. Currently we are becoming in danger of disconnecting entirely from ourselves, each other and the larger world.

1. Get Your Hands in there…

Philosopher-mechanic Matthew Crawford makes the case for working with your hands brilliantly. He is fascinated by the conditions for human flourishing and finds his own happiness in fixing motor cycles.

I marvel at the explosion of hands-on creative talent and enterprise (in Britain) over the last decade or so. I am particularly intrigued, since it seems against the odds. Surely in an uncertain job market there is more security in an office job that will pay the bills?

Not so, we are finding. The contentment that flows from combining your hands, your cognition and your attention is persuading young people to become plumbers, builders, carpenters, designers of all sorts, musicians, gardeners, potters, cooks and so on.

An Oxford graduate I know, decided to open a bicycle repair shop and rather than him doing all the work he encourages his clients to come in too, so that they can learn to fix their own bikes alongside him.

I see friends and acquaintances hang up their suits and ties for good, to rekindle their dormant inclinations to paint, make pots, restore boats.

2.     Step Out and Walk…

Robert Macfarlane suggests that “The body knows things in ways that the conscious mind cannot.” He says that in a world of uncertain and shifting identities, you can only know yourself on the move. We evolved to move out across landscape and in so doing our mind expands.

Why not decide to set yourself a mini goal this week:

Instead of watching the celebrity chef or gardener on TV, set a little time aside every day to get absorbed in a manual task like cooking, gardening or knitting yourself. Pay good attention to what your hands are doing.

Alternatively, you might choose to use the later setting of the sun to stride out after work or dinner and connect more consciously to the earth underfoot, the landscape itself and the rhythm of your own breath.

By slowing down in this way I hope you will notice an increased contentment as well as a more effortless sense connection that will flow from it…

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