Last week I attended a talk by Tulane graduate Dr. Ned Hallowell, author of the classic international best seller, Driven to Distraction. After a trip down memory lane recalling his Tulane days, he shared his New England childhood struggles with learning differences and how those led to his years of research and successful treatment of both children and adults with ADHD.
One thing that sets Dr. Hallowell apart from other experts in the field is his emphasis on the power of connection. While this may seem obvious, as humans, we all need connection; Dr. Hallowell links it to learning. Human connection leads to the power of emotion, and emotion is the on/off switch for learning. Think about it, if you have a strong positive emotion associated with a subject or a person, you will be able to learn that topic, or learn from that person, with ease. He also fears a new national trend and notes that the number one medical problem today is loneliness. In a technologically connected world, the personal connection can be lost. While an online connection is better than none, a physical personal connection is best.
In order for us to learn, to succeed and to experience happiness, we need trust, closeness and familiarity. Those qualities can only come with a strong physical presence. He recommends to always find someone and, most importantly, to never worry alone: “The conversation doesn’t need to be cheerful. Go ahead and bemoan the world together. And even that will feel better.”
Yet how to begin? He suggests finding connection through a religious organization (“Even if you don’t believe in that religion. It doesn’t matter, you just need to find people”), a coffeeshop, a gym, or a shopping mall. It’s all free group therapy. He advises to walk up to people and start talking. At the end of the day, ask yourself, “Who did you talk to today?” Luckily we live in this Caribbean city of friendly New Orleanians, and spring is in full bloom along with festival season. We have ample opportunities to strike up casual conversations with smiling strangers. So say hello, ask a question, make a connection, feel better and set yourself up for success!