Go Team! How Groups Help Us Find Our Flow
By Colette Harris
Does having your teammates with you during an early morning workout raise your motivation level? Does just being around your team, supporting each other and pushing each other, inspire more confidence in yourself and push you to be your best?
We’ve been on the “buddy system” of working in pairs or groups since kindergarten and it turns out science supports the idea that being part of a group can improve many areas of our lives. From fitness to reducing physical pain to managing emotions, there’s power in embracing group interactions. In fact, humans have gathered in one form or another since the beginning of time. Dr. Aimee Harris-Newon says that part of what makes us human is our primitive need for belonging.
“Our need for belonging and affiliation is hard wired into us because, pre- historically, if we weren’t part of a group for example or a family or tribe we probably weren’t going to survive,” says Harris-Newon, psychologist and owner and director of Dr. Aimee & Associates, an integrative health and wellness practice with offices in Bloomingdale and Hinsdale.
While we might not need a tribe to protect us from saber-toothed tigers or hunt wooly mammoths in modern day America, embracing a group environment can help us heal from both the emotional and physical traumas we experience today.
Harris-Newon says the benefits of group therapy can sometimes be amplified over individual therapy because of the support the group provides. Group counseling helps individuals understand that they aren’t alone in facing their current challenges. She says the group often acts as a sounding board for individuals, showing patients what they can’t see for themselves and offering a multitude of perspectives on an individual’s situation.
“It’s almost as though every person in the group holds up a mirror and you get to see yourself through their eyes,” says Harris-Newon. “It’s a way, as I said before, of uncovering blind spots that that may be blocking someone’s ability to overcome their issues.”
Harris-Newon says sharing is sometimes easier in the group setting because of other participants’ willingness to share their emotions. They’re a great opportunity to build social skills, especially for those that experience anxiety.
“Group therapy allows participants to practice taking social and emotional risks in a very safe environment,” says Harris-Newon.
Physical pain relief can come from group healing as well. Dr. Meggie Smith practices bio-geometric integration, a light tough form of chiropractic that helps the brain and body communicate more effectively through releasing tension points throughout the body. Whereas traditional chiropractors often use high force to realign the spine and help nerves fire appropriately, bio-geometric integration uses a lighter touch to help the nervous system communicate better with the rest of the body.
“When people are injured their body gets defensive. Their body wants to protect itself, which is really good and really important. What we need to do is help them feel safe and help them get into a healing mindset and environment,” says Smith, owner of Chiropractic First in Evanston.
Smith combines bio-geometric integration and entrainment – the ability of organisms to synchronize to one another - in a group setting to foster healing. Just as pendulums entrain to swing in synchronization when they’re near each other, Smith says humans entrain to the healing of others in a group setting.
“By having people heal in a group space they heal deeper and they heal faster,” Smith says. “They heal more powerfully because they’re picking up on the energy of the people around them who are also healing.”
Smith sees up to six patients at a time in thirty-minute increments. She adjusts one patient and as her work settles into that patient’s body, she adjusts the next patient and so on.
“There’s kind of like a really peaceful buzz or energy,” says Smith of the group healing environment. “ It feels very peaceful, safe I would say, hopeful.”
There's no denying the power of group dynamics to either raise or lower the energy of a team. Remember that even encouraging and supporting one person on your team can lead to raising the overall confidence of the group. As teammates, build each other up, support each other when things get tough, and always stick together.