People are often jealous that I work at home…
And frankly, I love that I have The Big 3 Freedoms of Freelance Entrepreneurship…
— Freedom of time, to work when and how much I want.
— Freedom of place, to work where I want.
— Freedom of income, to expand my earnings based on value delivered.
But — and you knew there was a big BUT coming…
There’s also a critical element MISSING from the freelance lifestyle. And as I’ve busted out of my home office to work in coffee shops for the last couple days, this is something I’ve thought about.
The dark truth…
Working in a quiet home office is sometimes peaceful, but also, it’s sometimes really lonely!
I’m not sweating it too much. And you don’t have to call in an intervention on me. But this is a real and not-so-pretty side of work-at-home freelancing that I think gets glossed over a lot.
We need CONNECTION.
We thrive from it.
Socializing is critical to our health and happiness.
And as nice as it can be for an introvert like me to not have to deal with other people when I’d rather be alone, it’s also worth noting that too much isolation can make you miserable.
Science backs me up here…
I did a little bit of research in preparation for this article. I knew the science was there, but I wanted to find at least one good study to share it.
Humans are a social species.
We developed in small groups — tribes — reliant on each other for survival.
And over the millions of years of evolution that led to humans as we know us today, social behavior was reinforced by evolution.
Think about this going back to before modern civilization.
If you live “in the wild” and you’re completely alone, you’re far more vulnerable to any and every threat. You don’t have help fighting off predators. You don’t have help gathering or hunting or preparing food. You don’t have someone to care for you when you’re sick or injured. And so you’re much less likely to survive, and less likely to mate and have offspring.
If you socialize well and have connections with others in your tribe, you have advantages in all of these situations. You can fight off predators, you have help feeding yourself, you have care when you need it. And, importantly, you’re able to have a mate and produce offspring.
On an individual basis, this may not matter much. But in aggregate, over generations, this has a direct consequence…
Loners die, and socializers thrive…
And note: I’m not trying to make a value judgment here. I often find myself to be a loner, or at least I’m very comfortable alone for long stretches of time. But over evolutionary history, we’re descendants of generations upon generations of people who successfully socialized — our current personal preferences notwithstanding.
This shows up in how our brain works…
Which brings me to the study I found for you.
It’s called The Rewarding Nature of Social Interactions. And if you don’t want to read all the thick academic language, let me give you the gist of it…
We get the same dopamine hit from a good social interaction as we do from addictive drugs.
The same feel-good chemicals that flood the brain of a cocaine addict play a role in reinforcing our social behavior.
More good social interactions lead to more groovy neurotransmitters.
Our brains have developed, over millions of years, to give us what could be the most pleasurable sensation, simply by connecting with people.
It’s created artificially and in overabundance through drugs — in a way that becomes dangerous through repetition.
But in terms of natural highs — being social is a proven way to do it.
Here’s how this becomes dangerous…
If you’re NOT connecting with others on a regular basis, your brain is missing out on all those feel-good chemicals.
And that’s exactly what happens in a drug-addicted brain, when it’s been too long since the last hit.
Then what happens?
Desperation. Depression. A nagging sense that the world is falling down around them.
But in a drug addict, it’s more pronounced. They had the drug, and now they don’t. They know when they get the drug again, they’ll get another hit of those good feelings.
If you’re simply spending too much time alone, working in your home office, it will creep up on you.
You won’t know why you’re feeling a little off. You won’t know what’s missing.
And so you’ll be more likely to attribute it to other causes.
Or you just won’t know what the heck is going on — besides feeling totally off.
Good news: there’s an easy cure!
Go out and interact with people.
If you work at home and are a freelancer, you don’t necessarily have an office to go to. But you can go to co-working spaces, and make friends there. You can work at coffee shops, and develop friendly relationships with staff and regulars.
Even just spending a little time interacting with people as you get your food and drinks will have you feeling lighter.
Also, embrace the extracurriculars.
And no, I’m not just talking about family activities — although they can help.
What other groups, communities, and tribes are you a part of — or could you join? Who can you reach out to? What friendships can you develop?
Find things you like to do, with people you like to be around, and make them a priority.
Say YES. To coffee. To phone calls. To an evening out. To get-togethers of all types.
The goal is connection. And connection comes through spending time together.
Maybe working for yourself, at home, is a good fit for you and your goals.
(If you’re trying to figure out how to make it work, consider my Freelance Copywriter’s Independence Package.)
But if so, you’ll have to make sure you have that deep human need for connection met through other channels.
And the next time you’re feeling off, ask yourself, “Do I have enough connection right now? Have I had enough time socializing with others? If not, what can I do to change that?”
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
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