“How are you?” & The Crave for Connection


“How are you?” are three seemingly innocuous words that often pose a loaded question for many. Why do these words carry so much weight? To recognize the why, it is important to note how these words are often used. Asking someone how they are in earnest could elicit a wide range of responses ranging from pleasant to shocking. The true nature of the question is not how it is colloquially used. Instead, it has become a perfunctory greeting of sorts. If people answer honestly, they often receive looks of incredulity.

Why do we often respond like this? Why is this important?

Much of it comes down to the simple sentiment that we crave connection, though we live in a society that creates circumstances that make us feel disconnected from our emotions and one another.

I have often found it strange that people tend to get tense when someone answers that question honestly. Perhaps it is my flair for the dramatic aspects of life, but I believe there is something to appreciate if someone is willing to be real with you and open up about the less-than-savory aspects of your life. What may be so alarming for people is that if someone else is open about their struggles, it may bring up those feelings within themselves.

Add this to many modern conveniences and social technologies being a hotbed for avoidant behaviors, and the concept of facing and recognizing the spectrum of feelings becomes a daunting task for many. Of course, I still recognize general social tact, acknowledging that there are more or less appropriate times to open up about certain aspects of your life. However, if people were willing to just hold a bit more space for others when they ask that question it could go a long way in making a more connected society.

What is so important about connection?

This topic has been expounded upon at length in a 2023 release from the office of the US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy titled- Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Social Isolation. This publication covers the factors that have led to widespread loneliness and isolation, along with an examination of the harmful effects. One startling claim from the document is that the impact on mortality caused by a lack of social connection is akin to smoking upwards of 15 cigarettes a day.

The impact of a lack of social connection can lead to psychiatric conditions such as anxiety, depression, and a weakened immune system increasing susceptibility to viruses or respiratory illnesses. Lack of social connection has a widespread impact on many areas of our society, having negative impacts ranging from mental health to education and the economy. The issue is not simply a talking point to help justify why people feel lonely but is a serious threat to society’s overall well-being. Fortunately, there are ways we can combat this threat.

Community Events at Torus

So how do we combat the challenges brought forth by lack of social connection? Murthy explains several different directives to do so, but the one to focus on is building a culture of connection. A key component of building a culture of connection is promoting the practice of values that foster connection, such as kindness, respect, and service, and exhibiting a commitment to help others. These components are not always an easy thing to achieve, but at Torus, there are ways we are trying to contribute to building a culture of connection.

One manner is by having community events like New Moon or Full Moon Meditations where people can come together, be open with their thoughts and feelings, and relate to one another to be better in alignment with the overarching values that promote connection. Another way is through groups, such as the upcoming Reclaiming You Group and Empowerment and Sisterhood Groups, focusing on exploring one’s values and establishing personal boundaries. Done in a group environment helps promote openness, connection, and community, which go a long way in combating the feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

Dealing with feelings of loneliness and isolation can be overwhelming, but it is imperative to recognize that if you experience these feelings, you are not alone. There are many more people out there who feel like this and may be someone you can form a connection with. So when you ask, “How are you?” consider holding space for their honest answer, and you both may feel a greater sense of connection.

Written by: Nick Shaw, MSW Intern

Murthy, V. H. (2023). Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s
Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community.