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Positive Social Connection is Important for Your Mental Wellbeing

May 10, 2021

Social connection has been shown to lower anxiety and depression, improve physical health, improve day-to-day performance and quality of life, improve our immune systems, and help us live longer. I think we have seen the importance of this more than ever, over the course of the last year. Recently, I have been working with many clients who are experiencing increased levels of anxiety, depression, and stress because of the cumulative effect of not having been able to spend time with friends and family for an extended period of time. Although initially many people were happy about having more time for themselves, the impact of not seeing friends and family coupled with not seeing co-workers in person, has taken its toll on many. The National Alliance on Mental Illnesses is running a “You are Not Alone” campaign for Mental Health Awareness Month to highlight the importance of social connection as so many people have been impacted by the isolation caused by the pandemic.

 

I also think that sometimes we think we are more connected than we really are. Have you ever gone out with friends or loved ones and realize you spend ½ the time on your phone paying attention to other things? Do you have hundreds of “friends” on social media, yet you don’t really know any of them or what is actually happening in their lives? Do you think you are connected with others because you are quickly responding to a text as you are running out the door for an appointment? 

 

In today’s world, it is easy to think we are “connected” without having true connection. To experience the true benefits of human connection, be intentional about forming a deep connection with others. Be present when you are interacting with them. Be curious about what is happening in their lives. Be vulnerable and be authentic. If you want to feel a deeper connection with a social group (friends, organization you belong to, online community), take time to really get to know others. Be curious about what is happening in their lives. Offer support and ask for support as is needed. Find things in common and share your experiences with them. 

 

If you are wanting to grow your positive social connection, consider trying the following:

  • Take time each week to call someone or Facetime them, instead of just texting them.

  • Try sending voice texts instead of only sending regular texts.

 

  • Follow up with people when you know they have something going on in their lives. Check in and let them know you are interested and there to support them.

 

  • Mail cards or notes to people for special events. Taking time to write out how you feel on paper creates positive feelings and certainly receiving such letters creates positive feelings and a feeling of connection.

 

  • When spending time with others in person, put your phones away and be present in the moment.

 

  • If you live with others, try to eat dinner together when possible. Make it a point to turn off electronics and engage in conversation.

 

  • If you are feeling stressed, upset, anxious, etc., reach out to others for support.

 

  • Be fully present for others if they reach out to you in need of support.

 

  • When interacting with someone online, share a comment instead of only liking posts.

 

  • Volunteer for a cause that is important to you where you will connect with likeminded individuals and feel the positive emotions associated with helping others.

 

  • When it is safe to do so, schedule time to see the people most important to you on a regular basis. Consider having a monthly potluck dinner, cocktails out, a game night, etc. Connecting like this this often makes a difference.

  • When participating in online groups, truly engage with others. Ask questions, offer feedback and suggestions, and really try to get to know others in the group.

 

  • Connect with animals. Although not the same as connecting with humans, the love and affection you can receive from animals is like no other.

  • Just as important as increasing positive connection, is decreasing negative connections. If you have someone who is overly focused on the negative or who criticizes you or puts you down, consider limiting or eliminating your interactions with them.

 

Social connection impacts both our physical and our emotional wellbeing. Take some time to consider if there are things you can do differently to help you start to feel more connected with others.

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