How Well Connected Are You?

Most of us are aware of things that can boost our well-being – eating healthily, getting enough sleep, taking exercise and time out to unwind and relax. But did you know that having enough social connection with others is also vital for both our mental and physical health?

In this post I’m taking a look at social connection, why spending time with others is so beneficial for us and suggesting ways we can all try to build more human connection into our lives.

What is social connection?
As humans we have depended on connection with other humans to survive – working together to hunt, travel, form social groups. Needing connection with other humans to thrive is in our DNA.

Human connection is the sense of closeness and belonging we feel when we have supportive relationships with the people around us. These connections can help us to feel valued, seen and heard. They can make us feel stronger and more nourished. Simply time spent in the presence of others can be a bonding experience.

Why is social connection important?
Research shows that feelings of loneliness are generally on the rise and that a lack of human connection can be harmful to your health

Studies have found that social isolation can contribute to depression, insomnia and cognitive decline. Physically, research suggests it might also be associated with a lowered immune system making us more vulnerable to viruses and disease and even increase our chances of stroke and heart disease.

On the other hand, social connection can offer a number of mental health benefits such as boosting mood, reducing stress and improving self esteem. When we connect with friends and loved ones we experience a multitude of emotions. When we express these emotions our brains release dopamine and endorphins – the feel good hormones responsible for happiness and mood.

Why am I feeling disconnected?
There are lots of reasons why we may be lacking social connection in our lives.

The pandemic forced us to isolate from others. Even though restrictions are lifted many people haven’t resumed the same social interactions they had pre-Covid. We still work from home, some or part of the time, we may have lost contact with social groups and hobbies we used to meet with, we shop on-line.

Often we might be so busy that our social connections can fall by the wayside. We live busy lives, balancing family and caring responsibilities, work commitments and endless meetings, the daily chores and ‘to do’ list. On tip of that we’re trying to fit in time for hobbies and exercise, self-care and more.

Specific triggers for feelings of loneliness or isolation may include:

  • Losing someone close to you
  • Going through a relationship break up
  • Retirement
  • Changing jobs
  • Children going to university
  • Moving to a new area
  • Becoming a full-time carer

10 Easy ways to boost your social connections

Here are 10 ways to boost social connection in your life:

  1. Make an effort to re-connect with the people you already have in your life. Call friends and family, make arrangements to meet up with them or find new ways to strengthen your bond. Start slowly if it feels overwhelming – reach out to just one person you know will be supportive.
  2. Join a class or a club. Whether it’s art, exercise, reading, or learning something new, you’ll be meeting people who share the same interests.
  3. Talk to strangers. Even interacting in a small way with people you encounter can give you a boost so try striking up a conversation or just smile and say hello to neighbours or people in shops or serving your coffee.
  4. Volunteer for a cause you believe in. Not only will you meet others and be part of a group, but it may also bring a sense of purpose and the rewards of altruism.
  5. Find support online. There are lots of people also struggling with loneliness looking to connect. Find people with similar interests through Facebook groups or apps with a social element or discussion board.
  6. Spend time with animals. Even if you can’t manage to have your own pet, try services such as ‘Borrow My Doggy’ or look into helping out at an animal rescue center.
  7. Eat lunch in a communal space such as the park or cafe.
  8. Do a random act of kindness for someone.
  9. Do things you enjoy. Spending time doing things you enjoy can stop you focusing on your loneliness, boost your mood and occupy your mind.
  10. Talk to someone. Sharing your feelings can really help.

How can hypnotherapy help?

If you’re struggling with feelings of isolation or loneliness please do get in touch. Hypnotherapy can help you to address any feelings of low mood, or social anxiety that may be preventing you from making social connections. It can also help to boost your self confidence and self-esteem so that you feel able to make the changes that are right for you.

Remember:

  • Being alone and being lonely aren’t the same. Loneliness can feel draining, distracting and upsetting whereas choosing to be alone can feel peaceful, creative and restorative.
  • Our need for human connection doesn’t mean that if you’re an introvert you have to suddenly become a social butterfly. We all have different needs and preferences and it’s important for you to find ways of connecting with others that are right for you.
  • Virtually everyone feels lonely from time to time and everyone’s experiences of loneliness are different. You shouldn’t blame yourself or compare yourself to others.
  • Feelings of loneliness and disconnection can pass. If your feelings persist and you’d like more information, try some of the resources below:

Mind
Campaign Against Living Miserably
Silverline
Befriending Networks

“Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives”

Brene Brown

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