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Courtney Townley 0:00
Welcome to the Grace and Grit Podcast made for women who want their healthiest years to be ahead of them, not behind them. Join your host, Courtney Townley right now. As she breaks down the fairy tale health story, you have been chasing all of your life, indispensable action steps and lasting change.
Courtney Townley 0:28
Hello, my friends, and welcome to the Grace & Grit Podcast. This is your host, Courtney Townley. As always, I am super pumped, you’re here. And if you’re a Grace & Grit Podcast listener, which I’m assuming you are, since you’re listening to this episode today, hopefully you are also a subscriber to my email list. Because I send out a pretty value packed email every single week, it’s called A Little Bit of Grace and Grit. And if you’re not registered, you can always head on over to my website and get registered for that.
Courtney Townley 0:56
The reason I’m bringing it up is because a couple of weeks ago, I sent out an email to my subscribers and asked them a really simple question. And the question was this. Tell me the number one thing you believe is standing in the way of putting your best years ahead of you? If you’re someone who answered that question, thank you. But even if you didn’t send me an email back, I hope you considered it.
Courtney Townley 1:21
I did get a tremendous amount of responses. And the answers, as you might expect, were very wide and varied. They were different, there were a lot of different responses. And there were a lot of common threads.
Courtney Townley 1:38
And one of those threads I want to talk about today. Because this thread in particular, really got to me it kind of broke my heart. They all kind of broke my heart because all I want to see is women out in the world living vibrant and fully expressed lives. But the thread that I want to talk about today that really got to me was the feeling of loneliness, feeling alone, feeling isolated, feeling a lack of connection to other humans.
Courtney Townley 2:12
And look, if that’s you, there are so many reasons, you may be feeling disconnected, especially at midlife. And it’s really important that we remedy this, because loneliness can impact your mortality as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. That’s how unhealthy loneliness can be.
Courtney Townley 2:47
So today, in this episode, we are going to explore the value sell to soul of human connection, and how you can deepen your current relationships and hopefully ignite some new ones. So why is connections so dang important to human health? Well, because when you take time, to engage in meaningful connections, and nourish your relationships, you ignite a cascade of chemicals that promote health. You promote things like oxytocin and dopamine, which helps you to ultimately counter other hormones like cortisol.
Courtney Townley 3:40
And I know cortisol gets a bad rap, and I just want to say here and now there’s a beautiful side to cortisol, we want it in our system. However, I think most of us are pretty aware that modern day culture is really providing an opportunity for people to drown in cortisol. So connection relationships are really good for our mental and physical and emotional well being. And it really enhances our quality of life. And because I largely work with the female population of midlife, there are some things that I think are especially powerful about human connection for this population.
Courtney Townley 4:32
Number one, it really helps us to problem solve at a time where we are often confronted with a lot of problems. Right? We are being challenged with a lot of really big life responsibilities at midlife. We’re dealing with our, our loved ones, our significant others that may be children for you. You might be facing business challenges, aging parents, marriage, relationships, partnerships, all kinds of things. And when we are in community with other humans, it helps us to get perspective and find solutions to challenges that we’re facing.
Courtney Townley 5:15
And, you know, I really feel strongly about this probably more strongly than I did even just a few years ago. And one of the reasons for that is, I think if you’re a longtime listener, you probably know I have a membership called Rumble & Rise. And I was really resistant to building a community five years ago, because I really didn’t feel that one to one work with translate in a community environment, and boy, was I wrong. Because what ultimately happened was the community aspect of coaching, doing group coaching, creating an environment where women could connect with other women who are having similar rumbles, really brought an element to the experience of the member that they never could have experienced if they were only coaching with me one on one.
Courtney Townley 6:14
I think a big reason for that is that group environments, community helps us to normalize challenges. And I truly believe it’s why we have such an awesome retention rate inside of Rumble. & Rise is because of the community, sure, the lessons and all the resources and all that stuff is really great as well. But I really think it is the incubator, or the container of women to connect with other women around something that they are really passionate about, which is their health and well being and self-leadership skills, that that’s what keeps him in there. So community helps us to problem solve. community helps us to normalize challenges. It also helps us to decompress.
Courtney Townley 7:01
As women, we often decompress by talking things out, we don’t necessarily need someone to solve our problem. But by hearing ourselves talk about problems, we often come to solutions much quicker. And we learn and we grow from our relationships, we literally expand as humans, we become better humans by being in relationship with other people. So loneliness is absolutely a form of stress.
Courtney Townley 7:36
And as I was sort of mentioning cortisol, earlier, high levels of chronic stress, promote inflammation in the body. Because chronic cortisol is going to produce inflammation in the human body. And we know that inflammation is the precursor to an awful lot of dis ease in the human body. Loneliness can also jack up our nervous system, because it puts us in that fight or flight state. That’s what stress does.
Courtney Townley 8:08
Then our sleep gets disrupted, our immune system gets suppressed. And we experience all kinds of very unpleasant conditions, like high blood pressure and heart disease and obesity and anxiety and depression and cognitive decline, and even death. So loneliness, makes premature death, more likely, for people of all ages. It literally ages us faster. It accelerates the biological aging process, even more than smoking does. So loneliness, I really believe it’s kind of a current health crisis in the world. Because we are living at such a technologically advanced time.
Courtney Townley 9:11
I was reading an article the other day that actually said that loneliness has doubled since the 1980s. And what’s changed since the 1980s we have a lot more access to technology. And I know I have felt this I’m imagining you have probably felt this as well. Even though we have all of this opportunity for digital connection. People are more hungry for actual connection than they’ve ever been before.
Courtney Townley 9:45
We are becoming very low touch, low intimacy and low trust as people because we are interacting with other people So let’s talk a little bit about some of the very real barriers for midlife women to foster connection to help combat loneliness, because that’s really what we’re here to talk about. And this is obviously going to be a short list. There are a lot of other things I’m not going to mention today. But some of the big barriers that I see in my own coaching is number one busyness.
Courtney Townley 10:28
We are so busy all the time, that we aren’t making time for connection. We’re kind of putting it on the backburner and telling ourselves that when life slows down, I’ll make time for connection. But life doesn’t slow down. Because the way you are living your life becomes a habit. And there’s a lot of reasons we keep ourselves really busy.
Courtney Townley 10:55
We are, in some way, probably trying to keep up with societal expectations, maintaining the perfect house, having the perfect career, trying to get to the perfect body, balancing all these life responsibilities, constantly trying to prove our worth to other people. There’s a lot of reasons we keep ourselves so busy. But another barrier, and it’s very closely related to busyness is exhaustion. We’re tired, and interacting with other humans requires resource availability.
Courtney Townley 11:34
Sure busyness is contributing to our fatigue and our exhaustion. But so is a low level of self care, not giving our bodies what they need to generate energy. And also, it has to be said. And if you again, are a midlife human listening to this, you will be able to relate in some way that the aging process. A byproduct of that is that we have less resource availability naturally. So I never used to fall asleep watching a movie with my family at night, like on a Saturday night, I would watch an entire movie at 10 o’clock at night and feel like I could easily get myself to bed, wash my face, get to bed all the things. Now we might watch a movie at seven or eight o’clock at night, and I’m falling asleep halfway through.
Courtney Townley 12:30
And again, I’m not saying it’s just because of my age, it’s also because of the fullness of my life. But I definitely think it is worth acknowledging that the aging process is also contributing to feelings of exhaustion. And when we’re tired, we tend not to connect with other humans. I also want to offer that a barrier I often see is dissonance with the communities we have been traveling in for a long time.
Courtney Townley 13:05
So I talk a lot about on this Podcast about being a believer that a big part of the lifespan of a human is evolving and changing as a human, it’s a natural thing, it’s a natural thing to evolve and change as a human. And if we are not bringing in new friendships, to honor and support, the new identities that we’re creating for ourselves throughout our life. It can kind of turn off turn us off from wanting to connect with people. Because we feel like we don’t have anything in common with the people that we’re surrounding ourselves with.
Courtney Townley 13:50
This is why I always make a really strong case for putting ourselves in new rooms, and really making new friendship requests. So we can resonate a little more easily with our social circles. And when we can resonate more easily. It’s a much more powerful invitation to spend time connecting with others. And then I also put down avoiding risk. I see this as a barrier for sure. We avoid risk in that we often aren’t making new friends in midlife or at any stage of life because we’re afraid of people not liking us.
Courtney Townley 14:42
Or we feel like we always have to behave as a certain in a certain way to make the people around us happy. But it doesn’t feel true to us. Like we kind of feel like we’re acting. We’re not being authentic. And so it’s a huge turnoff, right? When we aren’t being authentic and the communities that we’re spending time in, we kind of feel like we’re betraying ourselves. And that doesn’t feel great.
Courtney Townley 15:19
Again, those are just a few barriers that I often see in my coaching in terms of why people aren’t making time, or applying effort to connect with other people. So let’s talk strategies because this is really what we’re here to talk about, right? Number one, we’ve got to prioritize making time to connect with people. connection requires time and attention. And in our fast paced world, in a state of trying to keep up with all the expectations, this day and age, this can be a huge problem, creating time and space for connection.
Courtney Townley 15:59
Interestingly, there was a study done at the University of Kansas, that showed on average, it takes a college kid 43 hours, to turn an acquaintance in to a casual friendship. And it takes adults twice as long, it takes us even more time to forge casual friendships. And maybe that’s because it takes us longer to trust. Who knows, like, I don’t know exactly why it takes us longer. But what an interesting thing to know.
Courtney Townley 16:38
So if it takes a college kid 43 hours on average, that means it’s taking an adult 86 hours on average. And a lot of us here that number, it’s like I don’t have time for that. Right, I don’t have time to forge new friendships, if that’s what it’s going to take. But again, circling all the way back to where we started this conversation, all the benefits of connection, it’s actually going to expand your life, to create friendships, new friendships, and deepen the friendships you already have. I also said as a strategy to be very intentional. And being intentional with our relationships and with connecting with other humans really means reaching out. So not only carving out time in your calendar, but also making phone calls, extending invitations, making friendship offers.
Courtney Townley 17:40
What the heck is a friendship offer? It means asking somebody who you really feel compelled to get to know better. Hey, I would love to have you as a friend. Do you want to get together sometime? And that feels risky. It requires courage to do that. But I will tell you the number of times that that has happened to me where someone has said, Hey, you seem like a really great person. Would you like to go to coffee? Or would you like to whatever the invitation is? I always feel so lit up about that. Not once has someone said that to me. And I was like, No, that no, that’s a terrible idea. People love invitations. They love to know that they are worth knowing. So extend some of those invitations.
Courtney Townley 18:32
And oh my gosh, little kids are awesome at this, aren’t they? They go to the playground and they literally just walk up to everybody at the playground and say, Hey, you want to be my friend? Where did we lose that? Because that is an awesome skill. And I think we also have to be really careful when we are trying to be more intentional about reaching out and making friendship requests that we parent our brain in a way that is useful to us.
Courtney Townley 19:04
Because I see a lot of people when it comes to interacting with other humans looking for evidence for why they shouldn’t connect with other humans and it often sounds like I hate people. People won’t like me. Even the statement, I am an introvert. Maybe you are right like that. That is a very real possibility. But when you are constantly telling yourself that you are an introvert, what does that do for your connections and your relationships? I mean, if it’s useful to you, by all means keep saying it.
Courtney Townley 19:44
But if you’re using it as a way to kind of hide from people and not apply the effort to have relationships in your life, I think it can be hugely problematic. I don’t have time is a way that we can really easily hide from deepening connections in our life.
Courtney Townley 20:03
The other thing I would say in terms of a strategy is we have to make it easy. And this is this is a pervading message to all of my work, whether you’re talking about exercise, or improving your diet, or trying to improve the quality of your sleep, or improve your relationships. If you make it hard, your brain will say, Nope, not a good idea. Let’s just stay on the couch and watch Netflix.
Courtney Townley 20:31
And I’m gonna use my mom here, I adore my mother, my mother is amazing. She’s an amazing human. And her home is like a museum. I mean, it is so well taken care of. Everything has a place. There’s never a speck of dust anywhere. And for a really long time, I felt that that is how my house needed to look in order to invite people over. That is not easy. Running a job, having two self employed people in a house, a 200 pound blind dog, and a 13 year old boy, like it is not easy for me to keep my house meticulously clean in order to forge relationships.
Courtney Townley 21:14
So I really had to check myself on that belief system in order to be more open to having people in my home. But I think ease might also look like automating some dates, with friends, old or new. I think this is why book clubs are so popular, right? It kind of it’s on your schedule, once a month, every month, you kind of have some idea who’s going to be there and what’s going to take place. And it’s things that are automated, are much easier to say yes to.
Courtney Townley 21:52
There’s a gal in my town, who is also a coach who reached out to me about a year ago, and just asked if we could meet for coffee every Friday at 7am. Not every Friday, but once a month on a Friday. And we’ve been doing that for a year now. Which has been awesome. Because I don’t have to decide every fourth week of the month, it’s already decided for me, we automated the appointment. I also think what makes it easy to connect with other humans is attaching it to something that you’re already doing.
Courtney Townley 22:28
So can you invite somebody to exercise with you, or go for a hike, or play a sport or do a craft or meal prep on Sundays, I don’t know, it could be anything. But so often, especially in our culture, right? Where we’re attaching, the only ways to socialize are through food and alcohol. And I think for people who are really committed to improving their health, that becomes really problematic. Because of that dissonance that I mentioned earlier. I don’t want to have to go to you know, restaurants where I know there’s not going to be a lot of healthy choices or go drink at a bar every time I want to feel connected to humans. It’s totally out of alignment with the way I want to feel. And so I have to take that responsibility on myself to invite people to do things that I do enjoy.
Courtney Townley 23:37
If you’re someone listening to this, that feels and this was really interesting, when I got those responses by email, telling me that people were feeling lonely or a lack of connection. One of the things that I actually got in multiple emails was the comment that the circles people were hanging out in were circles where people were normalizing disease. And it literally those exact words were said more than once.
Courtney Townley 24:08
So if you are someone who is listening to this Podcast, and I’m assuming it’s because you want to promote your health and well being are the environments that you are trying to connect with other humans in actually helping to support that. And if not, it may be a reason you’re not making time for connections. So how could you shake that up? How could you extend invitations to other people to think outside of the box of food and alcohol.
Courtney Townley 24:42
Another thing I think is really important is being authentic. I briefly talked about this earlier, but it’s really important that when we’re forging new relationships or deepening relationships, that we really show people who we are be because if we feel like we have to abandon ourselves, our true selves to spend time in the company of other people, you could be with 1000 people in a room and feel so lonely. So we’re not solving the loneliness problem by being authentic. Tell people who you are. share with them what you believe what you like what you don’t like. It’s an awesome filter for figuring out who belongs in your life and who doesn’t. Have brave conversations. Have Converse be really curious, ask people lots of questions, it’s a great way to get to know people, it’s a great way to figure out who you might want to spend more time with and who you might not.
Courtney Townley 25:51
And of course, I’m going to say put yourself in new rooms. I think of all the rooms that I had put myself in over the years that have introduced me to some of my favorite people. And they were rooms that I initially felt really uncomfortable in. So, but simultaneously, they were also rooms that had something I was interested in. So Latin dancing has long been a passion of mine, I put myself in a lot of Latin dancing spaces. I go out Latin dancing a lot by myself when I travel, and I have met some of the most remarkable humans that way. Movement, whether it’s training or going to some kind of specialized training, I have met a lot of my best friends through volunteer work, book clubs, business networking groups, online communities.
Courtney Townley 26:51
So I know at the start of this Podcast I was talking about, you know, we’re in this technical age and and then people aren’t really connecting in the flesh. And this has been a longtime rumble of mine, because I run an online community. And I think it’s incredibly valuable. And I think most of the women in that community would say the same thing. But there is this gap, of not really being able to meet in the flesh.
Courtney Townley 27:18
We have recently provided an opportunity to solve that problem. Some of you may know, I’m hosting my very first retreat in October of this year here in Montana. And we have an amazing group of Rumble & Rise, community members coming to spend three days at this amazing Ranch, to be able to connect in the flesh.
Courtney Townley 27:43
So all of the things I just mentioned under the strategy for helping to combat loneliness, prioritizing connection, being intentional about connection, making connection easy, being authentic, and putting yourself in new rooms, all of that is going to require leaning into discomfort. And the trade off for leaning into that discomfort is enormous.
Courtney Townley 28:19
If you are listening to this today, and you are struggling with loneliness at midlife, I really just want you to know you’re not alone. We all wrestle with it to some degree. And I want to challenge you to think about one small step you can take this week, even better yet today to help combat that, to help combat the loneliness. Who do you need to reach out to? Who do you need want to extend an invitation to what room might you need to put yourself in? What brave conversation might you need to have? It is so important to your health and happiness. And this is a conversation I think we need to be having a lot more of.
Courtney Townley 29:13
I mean, I feel like with midlife, female conversations we’re often talking about diet and exercise, hormonal dysfunction, menopause, perimenopause, all these things are very relevant, very important. And human connection is a piece of all of that. So food for thought, I hope it was helpful.
Courtney Townley 29:38
If you are a frequent listener of the show, and you have never left a review, but you keep coming back because you find value here. I would be so immensely grateful if you would rate and review the show. And if you listen on any kind of Podcast platform that does not allow you to leave a review, you can always send me a review at Courtney@graceandgrit.com. And we will convert it into a little testimonial that we’ll just use to kind of encourage people to listen to the show. So thank you in advance if you take the time to do that. I hope you have an amazing week ahead and I will see you again next week. Take care.
Courtney Townley 30:24
Thank you for listening to the Grace and Grit podcast. It is time to mend the fabric of the female health story. And it starts with you taking radical responsibility for your own self care. You are worth the effort and with a little grace and grit anything is possible.