The Tao Te Ching tells us:
Where people are neighbors
And life is in balance.
. . .
The fabric of peace.
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 80
We live in an increasingly confusing, challenging, and stressful world. Many people spend their time frantically multitasking, dashing around, trying to keep up. Although connected 24/7 on the Internet, we are feeling increasingly disconnected from ourselves and one another. Over 40 million Americans have anxiety disorders, 16 million suffer from depression, and the annual suicide rate has increased by 24 percent.
As the Tao reminds us and current psychological research confirms, we need community, people we can count on, people we can trust. A community of trust is essential to our mental and physical health (Umberson & Montez, 2010).
Decades ago, more people knew their neighbors. With less mobility, they had people nearby they could call by name, exchanging greetings and the local news, people to do favors for each other, to celebrate with, to share the harvests from our gardens, to count on for mutual support. But now many people spend more time on Facebook than with personal friends, more time on text and email than actually talking face to face. I see people walking down the street--even crossing the street--staring down at their phones, or couples out for dinner together, yet disconnected, each staring down at a phone. Our sense of community is eroding away and with it our sense of trust.
Yet we can help bring it back. And it doesn't take much. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson has found that "micro-moments" of warmth and connectivity shared with another individual can dramatically improve our health, reducing chronic inflammation, building physical and emotional well-being (Fredrickson, 2013). These micro-moments of connection can be shared not only with close friends and family members but the grocery store clerk or anyone else you encounter in daily life. A simple smile, eye contact, presence, perhaps a kind word—that's all it takes.
We can make a difference, cultivating a community of trust with small daily actions, as we would cultivate a garden. To heal the stress and anxiety in our world, we can begin by practicing these micro-moments, reaching out to connect with the people around us.
How can you begin building your own community of trust today?
Some information in this lesson appeared earlier in Dreher, D. (1996). The Tao of Personal Leadership. New York,
For statistics on anxiety, depression, and suicide, see: See: Twenge, J. M. (2000). The age of anxiety? Birth cohort change in anxiety and neuroticism, 1952-1993. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 1007-1021. Current anxiety disorders statistics from the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA): http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety and the National Institute of Mental Health, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-anxiety-disorder-among-adults.shtml. Information on depression and suicide rates in the United States from the National Institute of Mental Health, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/index.shtml
Fredrickson, B. (2013). Love 2.0: How our supreme emotion affects everything we feel, think, do, and become. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press.
Umberson, D., Montez, J. K. (2010).Social relationships and health: A flashpoint for health policy. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 51 (1). S54 - S66.