How would you define "social connection"? Is it having hundreds of friends or thousands of followers on Facebook, Instagram or other social media platforms? In reality, a person could be in the middle of a crowd or surrounded by friends and still not feel "connected". So, what does "social connection" really mean and why is it important?
Social connection is the feeling that you belong to a group and generally feel close to other people. The "need to know you belong" is a basic need and having healthy relationships fulfill this need. Social connection is so critical that all the healthy food, physical exercise, and sleep will prevent the negative impact it has on physical and psychological health.
Lack of Social Connection
- worse than alcoholism
- greater risk of disease and death than smoking, blood pressure and diabetes
- more harmful than smoking 15 cigarettes/day
- twice as harmful as obesity
- more vulnerable to:
- anti-social behavior
- suicidal behaviors
Social connection doesn't mean physically being present, it's someone's subjective experience of feeling understood and connected to others. It includes a sense of belonging, feeling cared for, and gives purpose. It has nothing to do with the number of friends you have or the number of "likes" or "followers" on social media. You could have no close friends or relatives and still feel very connected from within.
Benefits of Social Connection
- leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity
- strengthens immune system
- heals quicker
- helps you recover from disease faster
- lower levels of anxiety and depression
- higher self-esteem
- greater empathy for others
- more trusting and cooperative in others and from others
- Increases ability to learn and grow
- protects brain from stress damage
- produces oxytocin – the cuddle hormone
- lower blood pressure
- positive impact on physical health
- cardiovascular disease
3 Ways to Increase Your Social Connection
- Give, share, support .... do acts of service and kindness for others
- see how this one, simply, daily act of kindness made a huge difference for one woman in this video
- volunteering - "there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving" (Acts 20:35)
- Take care of oneself
- promote happiness from within reducing stress and self-focus
- Ask for help
- feeling lonely? Ask to join some friends or invite others to join you
The power of social connection can either have a positive or negative influence on your wellbeing. This means it is important to make sure the relationships you do have are healthy ones. Open, honest and safe communication is a fundamental part of a healthy relationship. Make sure you are on the same page and understand each other's needs and expectations. Here are some other qualities to look for:
Integrity - mutual trustworthiness, honesty, dependability, loyalty
Empathy - the ability to withhold judgment, effective listening skills, and the ability to offer support in good times and bad
Boundaries - not a sign of secrecy or distrust .... it’s an expression of what makes you feel comfortable and what you would or would not like to happen within a relationship
It is essential to continue your healthy diet, physical activity and healthy sleep routine for reaching and maintaining your health and wellness goals. However, do not ignore the power of social connection. It can affect you emotionally, physically and mentally so is vital to include in your self-care.
For tips on other physical, emotional and mental influences, check out my other resources here.