What is Social Connection?
When asked about the components of a healthy lifestyle, most peoples’ first thoughts are a nutritious diet and exercise. However, did you know that maintaining meaningful social connections is just as important for your health? As a matter of fact, a strong social life has been linked to not only a healthy lifestyle but also healthy aging. What exactly does it mean to be socially connected, though?
Researchers explain “social connection” as the feeling that you belong to a group and generally feel close to other people. Humans are social creatures by nature and have an inherent need for emotional human connections. Scientific evidence strongly suggests that we as humans need face-to-face, regular social interactions to thrive and feel satisfied with our lives. As neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman states in his book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, “To the extent that we can characterize evolution as designing our modern brains, this is what our brains were wired for: reaching out to and interacting with others. These social adaptations are central to making us the most successful species on earth.”
A Disconnect Age
While it may seem that we are living in an age where we are more connected than ever, the reality is that we’re living in a time of true disconnection. Technology and social media platforms give us the sense of being connected with others, but it is in an artificial way that does not register the same in our brains. The screens we surround ourselves with disconnect us from nature, from ourselves, and from others.
Before the outbreak of the COVID-19, a study revealed that loneliness was on the rise, and that a lack of human connection could be even more harmful to your health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. After more than a year of dealing with the effects of the pandemic, social isolation has taken a tremendous toll on the overall health of the world’s population.
With the delta variant causing cases and hospitalizations to rise and trying to juggle our responsibilities at home, work, and school, it might seem easy to put our social connections on the back burner. However, neglecting our need to connect will put our health even more at risk.
Staying connected with your friends and loved ones does not have to be an overwhelming task. Even the smallest acts, such as calling a friend or family member you haven’t talked to in a while, volunteering a few times a month, or doing a random act of kindness, can reap huge benefits for your health. These small but meaningful social connections can lower anxiety and depression, help regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and improve immune system function. To learn more about how you can stay connected, even during the continued course of the pandemic, click here!