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The importance of social connections in improving mental health

Updated: Apr 4


Mental health. Social exclusion.Mindfulness

In the full on world that we now find ourselves living in, where digital communication often takes precedence over face-to-face interactions, it's really important for our mental health to spend time actually in the presence of other people.


Now I love to work online. It's opened up a whole world of opportunity for me to work with people around the world and it suits my lifestyle as I am away so much, but as energetic beings, we need to be in and around the energy of others to thrive.


So, how can we get the best from our Social Connections and why is it so important?


  1. Mindfulness and Social Interaction: One of the ways to really get the best from the time with spend with others is of course mindfulness. Mindfulness involves us being fully present in the moment, actively listening, and engaging with others without judgment and without distraction. When we put away the phones or whatever it is we are being distracted by and really pay attention to the people around us the benefits can be profound. When we feel that we are really being listened to and seen, it activates the production of dopamine which is our feel good hormone so we feel happy and valued and motivated. The positive focus of someone's else's attention also helps us to think clearly, and that means that we can be clearer in our conversations and how we express ourselves. For us, giving someone our undivided attention helps us to create a deeper connection with the other person, we become more aware of the messages sent though body language and eye contact and our neurons start to fire differently so our sensory awareness increases which makes our experience richer, creates stronger memories and makes us feel part of something. It's all of these aspects on both sides of the social interaction that improve mental health.

  2. Human Connection and Emotional Wellbeing: We are inherently social creatures and we are wired for connection. When we react meaningfully with others, regardless of our relationship with them, we release oxytocin, which is the "bonding hormone," and that creates feelings of trust and security. So we feel less alone, we feel supported and these social connections then act as a buffer against stress, anxiety, and depression, which in turn helps us to develop our emotional resilience and provides us with a sense of belonging.

  3. Community Support and Mental Health: Moving outside of personal relationships, being part of a community is really good for our mental health. Being part of a community gives us a shared identity and a common purpose. It also gives us another network of support for when times are tough or we're just feeling a little out of sorts or vulnerable. It doesn't really matter in this instance whether it's a local neighborhood, a hobby group or club, or an online community because what is important here is the feeling of belonging, the shared experiences that we have in common, and the feeling of being supported that enhances our wellbeing.


Benefits of Social Connections

  1. Improved Mental Health: Having strong social connections have been linked to lower rates of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. Regular social contact improves our cognitive function or the working of our brain and how we process information and it reduces the risk of it declining as we get older.

  2. Enhanced Emotional Resilience:  Really all emotional resilience means is your ability to respond well or proactively when things aren't going well  or you're facing an emergency or crisis. When we have a network of supportive family and friends, what we really have is a safety net for when things are tough and it's this emotional support that helps us to cope with stress, problems and the ups and downs of living

  3. Physical Health Benefits: You might be surprised to know that social connections can impact on your physical health as well. Studies have shown that people with good social networks tend to have lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system, and even a longer lifespan, so get out there and get connecting!

On the flip side of social connection is of course social isolation

A lack of social connections can take a huge toll on our wellbeing. Chronic loneliness has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, cognitive decline, and mental health disorders and also Social Isolation can lead to feelings of emptiness, sadness, and low self-worth.


So how do you make social connections as adults today?

You can:

  1. Join Clubs or Groups: Work out what you like to do or what hobbies you have and join local clubs or online groups. This gives you an opportunity to connect with like-minded people who share the same interests as you.

  2. Attend Social Events: Attend community events or workshops, whatever is going on in your area. These can often be found in what's on magazines, the local library or community centre of village and town groups on social media. These type of events provide a natural setting for meeting new people and getting to know them in a safe space.

  3. Volunteer: Not only will you be helping a great cause, which boosts your wellbeing, the people you meet are more likely to have similar values as you and because of the work that you are doing, this can create a strong bond between you.

  4. Stay Connected with Loved Ones: Protect and value your existing relationships by regularly reaching out to friends and family. Prioritise quality time together, whether in person or online. You already have the shared connection and spending time together, triggers memories of these and creates new experiences which deepen the bond.

Conclusion

Our social connections are vital to our wellbeing, they influence our mental, emotional, and even physical health. 

By being mindful, valuing the people around us and and actively taking part in communities, we can build a really strong support network that improves our quality of life. So while digital communication is fantastic, let's not underestimate the power of genuine, face-to-face connections in creating a happy and healthy life.


You can get in touch via email cm@simplybe.org.uk or you can text me on +44 (0) 7974 618499

Chris.


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