Hands of several people stacked on top of one another with text overlay: The Importance of Connection

The Importance of Connection

Do current world events make you want to become a hermit? If so, you’re not alone. I know there are times I feel I just want to shut myself away in my house and not have to deal with anyone. Withdrawing from the world can sound appealing, but forming and maintaining connection with others is vital to our wellbeing.

The truth is, we don’t exist in a vacuum. We were created to be in relationship with others, and it shows in the way we’re wired to connect with others. As we talked about in Let’s Talk About Social Wellness, good communication skills, treating others with respect, and forming meaningful relationships are key to optimal wellness.

The Benefits of Strong Social Connections

Even those of us who are introverts benefit from connection with others. Just take a look at some of the ways strong social connections improve our lives:

Increased Longevity. People who have strong social connection have a 50% increased chance of longevity. (1) According to Mindwise.org (2) , “This remained true across a number of factors, including age, sex, initial health status, and cause of death.” According to one study referenced by Psychology Today, “lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.” 

A Stronger Immune System. The same genes that are impacted by our social connections can also affect our immune function and inflammation in our bodies. With a stronger immune system, we can recover more quickly from illness or disease.

Better Mental Health. Connection with others can give us a sense of belonging, reduce stress, and increase our happiness levels. Studies also show that people with stronger social connections tend to have lower rates of anxiety and depression. In addition, according to Olivia Ellis in her article The Power of Connection in the Age of Social Distancing (3), if we feel “we have enough social support, we will be more likely to manage our stress better.”

More Support for Healthy Habits. Remember that old saying that we become like the five people we spend the most time with? We do tend to take on the same behaviors as the people we surround ourselves with. Therefore, if the people we hang out with tend to lead a healthy lifestyle, we’re more likely to stay on track with our wellness behaviors as well.

More Resilience. When we have supportive relationships, it can help us bounce back from difficult or stressful circumstances.

How Do We Make/Maintain Those Connections?

With all these benefits, it’s easy to see that we need to have those connections, but how do we do that, especially during this pandemic, when we need to be social distancing?

There are many ways we can foster connection, even when we’re not doing a lot of face-to-face time with others.

For example, even brief moments of connection can add value to our daily lives. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson coined the phrase positivity resonance – a concept that says “when two people share positive emotions—even just momentarily—there is a synchrony between their biochemistry and behaviors, which can result in mutual connection and investment in each other’s well-being.” (4) These small actions that she calls micro-moments of connection can help us build bonds and create community.

That means that even short interactions with people at the grocery store, a quick “hello” to your neighbors, or even a “how are you today” – and really listening to the answer – when you pick up your prescriptions from the pharmacy can result in that positivity resonance we just talked about.

Hands of several people stacked with text overlay: " I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship." ~Brene Brown

Add More Moments of Connection with Others:

Be intentional about nurturing your relationships. It’s easy, when we’re busy, to take our relationships for granted, but relationships take some work to remain strong. When we’re with someone, whether physically or on the phone, it’s important to really be with them. That means actively listening – listening to understand, not to “fix” something for them or to placate them with some meaningless phrase that’s supposed to be comforting. It also means being in the moment with that person. How many times have you seen people sitting together at a restaurant, both on their phones instead of talking to one another?

Even if we can’t get together physically, we can talk on the phone, keep in touch online, or of course, set up Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom calls. Also — remember snail mail? Who doesn’t like to get a card or personal note in the mail?

Take advantage of those “micro-moments of connection” we talked about above. A simple “hello, how are you?” can foster those positive feelings and help us feel more connected to others. Text messages have also opened up a way to experience those micro-moments. Just a quick text to let someone know you’re thinking about them can make all the difference in their day and strengthen your relationship.

Look for ways to show kindness to others. Right now, that may look like sending a text or calling to check on your friends and family, checking to see if your neighbor needs anything from the grocery store, or even paying for someone’s coffee in the line behind you at Starbucks. Even if we don’t actually see the results of our kindness, doing these small things can help us feel more connected.

Get involved in something bigger than yourself. Whether it’s working in a food pantry or writing a blog, helping others in some way can help us feel more connected with the world at large. And as we all know, we’re in serious need of that spirit of connectedness right now.

What If I’m an Introvert?

For people who are introverts, this whole ‘building connections’ thing can seem overwhelming. After all, for the most part, we tend to have a smaller social circle than our more extraverted friends. It’s important to remember that it’s not the number of social connections we have; it’s the quality of those connections. We don’t have to have a huge circle of friends in order to feel connected.

Forming and maintaining connection with others is vital to our wellbeing. We’re wired to connect with others, and fostering our relationships make those connections even stronger.

How do you tend to form connections with others? What are some ways that you’ve nurtured your relationships during this time of social isolation? Please share!

Blessings,

~Terri

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Hands of several people clasped together with text overlay: One Key to Our Wellbeing, The Importance of Connection

 Sources:

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/feeling-it/201208/connect-thrive

2. https://www.mindwise.org/blog/uncategorized/the-importance-of-social-connection/

3. The Power of Connection in the Age of Social Distancing, Olivia Ellis, MS, MA, IDEA Fitness Journal , November-December 2020, Pocket Outdoor Media, San Diego, CA.

4. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/flourish-and-thrive/201907/5-ways-add-more-moments-social-connection-your-life

8 comments

  1. I think you’ve really hit on an excellent point in the quality of the connections, not the number. With social media, there’s a proliferation of connections and people can put a lot of stock in how many they have, yet how many are authentic? How many ‘how are you’ conversations are genuine and meaningful?

    We’re social beings, even those of us that don’t have many friends or need our alone time to recharge, that perhaps find socialising even in small amounts draining. But as you say, just a small, brief interaction can be meaningful and beneficial.

    How’re you doing, Terri? I don’t know what it’s like where you are at the moment – apart from going crazy with the election – but I hope you’re keeping as warm, well and safe as possible my friend  ♥ xx

    1. Thank you so much Caz! You make such a great point about people putting such a premium on how many “friends” they have on social media. There’s nothing wrong with having lots of friends, of course, but as you pointed out, they may not be very authentic friendships. I do have to say, though, that I’ve made friends here in the blogosphere who I feel closer to than some of the people I’m acquainted with in person.

      Thanks for asking how I’m doing. If I’m being honest I have to say this past month hasn’t been my best. I had diverticulitis which I had to take two antibiotics for. Now I’m still trying to recover from the effects of the antibiotics and trying to reintroduce fiber in my diet. My IBS is not cooperating very well. All in all, though, I really can’t complain. It could be much worse. How are YOU doing? Are you starting to feel any better than you were and returning to your baseline? I hope you’ve been able to get some rest; I know you’ve been super-busy lately. Sending hugs!

      1. Aww no, I’m sorry you’ve had such a horrible time of things with the diverticulitis. Even antibiotics can knock us around, all the more when you’ve had two of them. Do you think they’ve worked their magic?

        I personally used to find – no identified cause for my constipation prior to my stoma other than a dead bowel! – that fibre made things worse, even soluble fibre or ‘gentle’ fibre supplements. Do you usually find fibre to be okay for you in moderation?

        No rest here but I’m grateful to be able to still be standing, just about. I’m hoping things will settle soon and there’ll be less to do, because I can’t keep going like this. Had a few GP appointments this week for another problem that’s getting worse so I’ve got new meds and bits & pieces to try. It’s just one of those things with busy busy lately, a case of ‘when it rains it pours’. It’ll be okay. Thank you for asking 🙂

        I hope you’ve got the weekend to rest up, to keep stress low and hopefully do some things you can enjoy. A book, some TV. Naps! I really do hope things with your tum settle a little more soon. Sending hugs.xx

      2. Awww….thank you so much Caz! The antibiotics seemed to have worked so I’m extremely grateful for that. I do usually do fine with fiber; it’s just that for two weeks, I ate almost nothing but white starchy carbs. That means now my bowel is having to get used to eating some fiber again and it’s pretty cranky about it.😊

        I’m so sorry you haven’t been able to get any rest, and sorry to hear about the issue that’s getting worse. I really hope things settle down for you soon.

        I hope the same things for your weekend, sweet friend! Tell Virgil to take good care of you. Sending love and hugs your way!

  2. This is such an important post, Terri! I was just thinking this morning how I have curtailed my social media postings and visits dramatically as this isolation wears on. But I do stay in touch via phone and text with family and friends. One of the best parts of my day is my walks – at work we take two or three small breaks during the day to get outside and take a socially distanced walk around our building; at home I walk my dog every day for my sanity, and it’s always nice to be able to wave and say hi to the neighbors.

    I hope all is well with you! Hugs!

    1. Thanks so much Cynthia! I don’t spend a lot of time on social media either. Like you, I stay in touch by text or phone with my family and friends. We did go down for a visit with my parents and brothers Saturday, but we sat outside socially distanced. It was the first time we had seen them in person since March, and it was wonderful to be able to visit in person. It’s great that you guys take walk breaks at work – what a nice way to take a break from work and get a little exercise at the same time. I hope you’re doing well sweet friend. Sending hugs your way!

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