Together | Peace Through Action USA

Together CoverTogether: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World

Book Author – Vivek Murthy

Book Publication Date – April 21, 2020

Book Publisher – Harper Wave

Print Length – 352 pages

Book Description

The book we need NOW to avoid a social recession, Murthy’s prescient message is about the importance of human connection, the hidden impact of loneliness on our health, and the social power of community.

Humans are social creatures: In this simple and obvious fact lies both the problem and the solution to the current crisis of loneliness. In his groundbreaking book, the 19th surgeon general of the United States Dr. Vivek Murthy makes a case for loneliness as a public health concern: a root cause and contributor to many of the epidemics sweeping the world today from alcohol and drug addiction to violence to depression and anxiety. Loneliness, he argues, is affecting not only our health, but also how our children experience school, how we perform in the workplace, and the sense of division and polarization in our society.

But, at the center of our loneliness is our innate desire to connect. We have evolved to participate in community, to forge lasting bonds with others, to help one another, and to share life experiences. We are, simply, better together.

During Murthy’s tenure as Surgeon General and during the research for Together, he found that there were few issues that elicited as much enthusiastic interest from both very conservative and very liberal members of Congress, from young and old people, or from urban and rural residents alike. Loneliness was something so many people have known themselves or have seen in the people around them. In the book, Murthy also shares his own deeply personal experiences with the subject–from struggling with loneliness in school, to the devastating loss of his uncle who succumbed to his own loneliness, as well as the important example of community and connection that his parents modeled. Simply, it’s a universal condition that affects all of us directly or through the people we love—now more than ever.

Book reviews available, including from USA Today and goodreads.

Reflection Questions

  • Dr. Murthy describes a range of strategies and practices that promote community cohesion. Which strategy most strongly resonated with you? 
  • To what factors do you attribute the loneliness epidemic? Consider the influence of technology, social norms, cultural expectations, and individualism. 
  • What aspects of your own community do you particularly enjoy? What assets can you identify in your community that could serve as a resource or model for other areas of the country? 
  • Dr. Vivek Murthy presents social relationships as a vital source of support for one’s mental and physical wellbeing. What is one relationship in your life right now that gives you strength? In what ways has it nourished your life and physical and/or mental health?
  • The book discusses a variety of cultural practices and perspectives that strengthen community bonds. Do you have any encounters with another culture that changed how you engage in community?
  • What is one thing you can do to strengthen a sense of “togetherness” or “communitas” in your community?
  • How might you overcome personal barriers that prevent you from connecting with other people? How might you transcend social barriers that inhibit such connections? 

Action Recommendations

  • The lessons in Together have immediate relevance and application. These four key strategies will help us not only to weather this crisis, but also to heal our social world far into the future.

    1. Spend time each day with those you love. Devote at least 15 minutes each day to connecting with those you most care about.
    2. Focus on each other. Forget about multitasking and give the other person the gift of your full attention, making eye contact, if possible, and genuinely listening.
    3. Embrace solitude. The first step toward building stronger connections with others is to build a stronger connection with oneself. Meditation, prayer, art, music, and time spent outdoors can all be sources of solitary comfort and joy.
    4. Help and be helped. Service is a form of human connection that reminds us of our value and purpose in life. Checking on a neighbor, seeking advice, even just offering a smile to a stranger six feet away, all can make us stronger.

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