We are living in a time of true disconnection from one another. Despite technology giving us many ways to interact with one another, the apps and websites meant to foster connection inevitably draw us away from the present moment. We become more interested in the screen in our hands instead of the conversation happening around us.
Human connection is an inherent need. Real, authentic connection allows us to experience relationships with one another. These relationships provide essential outlets to share our thoughts and express emotions. Especially as we experience the re-opening of society post-pandemic, social connection may surface as a significant challenge for many of us. Although re-engaging with others may be intimidating, it is a necessity for maintaining our well-being.
What Does Social Connection Entail?
Social connection refers to a person’s positively experienced relationships, encompassing the vast network of connections we have. Every interaction, from greeting a stranger on the street to sharing close-held secrets with a best friend, falls under this umbrella. It can include relationships with family members, friendships, and intimate relationships and casual relations with coworkers or acquaintances. Social connection involves stepping outside of yourself to foster compassion and care for someone else. Connection doesn’t even have to be through a conversation and can occur through laughter or a smile.
With social connection, tailor to “quality over quantity.” Having a few quality friendships or relationships is much more beneficial to your well-being than having multiple, surface-level relationships. Deeper connections can lead to more positive effects on your mental health, fostering greater meaning within yourself. Social connection is about finding meaning in your friendships and relationships, as each one helps you move towards a new direction in life.
Social Connection Improves Our Well-being
Social connections are essential for your overall physical and mental well-being as they bring about a sense of purpose. Numerous benefits come with having social connections. Stanford Health found that some of these benefits include:
- 50% increased chance of longevity
- Lower levels of anxiety
- Lower levels of depression
- Stronger gene expression for immunity
- Higher self-esteem
- Greater empathy
- Better emotional regulation skills
- Increased trust in others
- Increased cooperation with others
In addition to these researched benefits, there are many other positive effects that you may experience from having social connections. Friendships teach us to be consistent, as friendships must be nurtured consistently over time to ensure lasting potential. Friendships are not always easy; they also teach us how to navigate conflict when a difference of opinion or value judgment arises.
Friendships also give us mutual feelings of support, providing us with someone to celebrate our victories with and someone to pick us up when life drags us down. It is an amazing experience when we find someone with whom we connect deeply. Whether a connection with someone is temporary or long-lasting, there is always something to be learned from the connection itself.
What Happens When We Aren’t Connected?
Lack of companionship or quality relationships can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Research tells us that poor physical and psychological health are expected to follow. People with fewer social connections become emotionally vulnerable, making them more likely to develop anxiety, depression, and/or antisocial behavior, which only furthers isolation. These negative emotions can sometimes lead us towards substances as a way to numb them away.
Feelings of loneliness are not uncommon. As we navigate through life, we must realize that relationships come and go. If you’re feeling lonely, consider if changes in your lifestyle have made you feel less connected with others. When we turn to substances instead of each other to cope with life’s struggles, we can find ourselves more isolated than ever. Temporarily experiencing these feelings can help us to empathize with others that feel them constantly. If you ever feel lonely for long periods of time, this could be a sign that you lack social connectedness.
Create Connections to Support Your Mental Health
Whether you decide to smile at someone at the grocery store or revive an old friendship through a phone call, there are many ways you can improve your social connections today. Make it a goal this week to put a conscious effort into a friendship or relationship that you have let slide. If you need to start fresh, consider a support group to find like-minded individuals in your community or online. Social connections can begin anywhere.
When you engage in connection this week, bring awareness to the physical sensations in your body and the mental state in your mind. Focus on the positive effects of connection, and see if you can become mindful of these effects as they are happening. Ask a friend why they think human connection is so important. Every relationship we have with one another on this Earth has value. Consider the butterfly effect – that every action, regardless of size, has the potential to have a significant impact on someone else. A simple act of kindness in engaging in social connection can considerably affect our environment and the people around us. When we take the opportunity to connect with others, substantial benefits to our personal well-being are sure to follow.
The need for human connection is one that each one of us experiences many times throughout our lives. Social connection brings numerous positive benefits, like decreased levels of anxiety and depression, increased trust and cooperation with others, and stronger feelings of overall well-being. Lacking social connection can lead to greater feelings of loneliness and isolation, as we become more vulnerable to negative emotions. Without connection, we are more likely to suffer from poor physical and psychological health. Having friendships and other relationships teaches us many lessons and allows us to find purpose and meaning in our lives. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we help individuals to discover meaningful connections in today’s disconnected world. We encourage social connection through a variety of programs and other resources. If you or a loved one is struggling with disconnection brought about by substance abuse, please call us today at (760) 492-6509. We would love to speak with you.