In the United States, we’ve found a million and one ways to overextend ourselves—from our perpetual “fear of missing out” to embracing “hustle culture” or being “always on”
and accessible by phone or social media. Meanwhile, our mental health is plummeting, burnout is climbing, and we’ve lost the sense of true connection and intimacy with others that makes life joyful. Author Joline Godfrey’s take on the old proverb rings more than true today—”All work and no play doesn’t just make Jill and Jack dull, it kills the potential of discovery, mastery, and openness to change…” In a post-pandemic world with record corporate profits, stagnant wages, and where the dollar doesn’t stretch far enough, we must demand the right to step back, achieve balance, and prioritize reconnecting with our families and communities.
Workers, families, and everyday people are clamoring for something more than endless productivity. By valuing leisure, recreation, and emotional or physical intimacy in our own lives and bringing back the boundaries that used to guard our time with family and friends, we can all play a role in changing our greater culture for the better. Instead of downright quitting or checking out from our jobs, we can talk to our bosses or colleagues about how work-life balance is crucial to our work and our mental and physical health. We can be intentional about limiting screen time and distractions that prevent us from connecting authentically with those around us. And we can seek out new experiences that activate our brain’s reward centers the same way that “likes and follows” on social media or a pay raise would.
Making time for emotional and physical intimacy is also crucial to our well being and it shouldn’t just be reserved for the few vacation days we take. Whether we grab a coffee with a friend, spend a few moments snuggling with a partner before starting our days, or even start putting sex on the calendar just like our other priorities, our physical and mental health depend on having robust relationships in our lives. Studies have shown that people with stronger social connections live longer, healthier lives than those who describe themselves as lonely. Couples who have sex frequently report greater relationship satisfaction and a lower divorce rate. And people who feel like they have time to commit to their families while growing their careers are more effective and dedicated employees.
When it comes to intimacy, improving intimate relationships can be as simple as trying a new technique or position, bringing a toy into the mix, or even putting a new style of condom to the test. It can also mean cultivating love and affection throughout the day as a precursor or alternative to sex—making and sharing a meal at home, sending some flirty text messages, or even holding hands on a family walk. Boosting connection is a process, and there are many small actions you can take every day to bring you closer together.
If you are not experiencing this level of balance in your life, know that most of us are in the same boat. There’s a reason that one in three Americans report feeling lonely and isolated, and while much of the problem is systemic, we can tackle those factors within our control. Making this change and taking back your time is not easy, but it is necessary. With individual action, we can begin to disrupt this cultural spiral of isolation, disconnection, and lack of feeling good. Think about one action you can take to strengthen your sense of connection or your relationships with people you care about, and if you are open to it, share your thoughts in the comments below. Your voice helps us amplify this message and emphasize that the most important parts of our existence as humans are the experiences we share with one another, not what we earn, the clothes we wear, or the number of views we get on TikTok.
Whatever increasing connection looks like for you—greater involvement in your community, stronger friendships, or more intimacy with a partner—leaning into our collective humanity has benefits that extend beyond our individual lives. Research supports the idea that feeling more connected boosts our individual and public health, strengthens our social institutions, and increases our sense of social responsibility. It’s the best way to counteract the isolation-heavy world we’ve all been living in, yet it requires that we be intentional with our time, direct about our needs, and work together to change a culture that values work and productivity above all. This summer, make a commitment to yourself to shake up the status quo and prioritize connection in a way that increases the joy in your life. And if your plans involve better, more satisfying sex, check out the ways Mayer Labs can help at mayerlabs.com