Forging strong social connections


Strong social connections not only impact our mental health but our physical health too. In today’s world, we lead increasingly busy lives and often our relationships can sadly fall by the wayside.

Feeling socially connected is more important than ever, especially after a long period where our social interactions are restricted, and our close circle reduced.

In celebration of International Friendship Day, CA Support discuss the importance of maintaining and prioritising our relationships for our overall health.

We’re designed to be social

We all know that comforting upbeat feeling of human connection, when you come away from a catch up with friends feeling more positive, happier, and even lighter.

As a species, human beings are inherently social creatures. We are biologically wired to seek out connection from a time where humans hunted in tribes and being part of a group was necessary for survival. Humans need closeness, connection, and a sense of unity to thrive.

Social connection is one of our core psychological needs which means it plays an essential role in how safe and satisfied we feel in our lives. Social groups provide us with an important part of our identity, forming who we are and teach us a set of skills and norms that help us to function throughout life.

In today’s world though we lead increasingly busy lives trying to juggle and balance work, family, and other commitments. Often our friendships can fall to the wayside.

However, strong connection and belonging to something bigger than ourselves are important for our overall health and wellbeing. The benefits of connectedness should not be overlooked, and therefore as a society we should be placing greater emphasis on investing in our friendships. The more connected we feel to other people, the more enriched our life becomes.

Friendship and being part of a social group offer a variety of mental health benefits. It increases our feeling of belonging, boosts our sense of purpose, and improves our self-worth and confidence. Connectiveness helps us regulate our emotions, leads to higher levels of empathy and compassion, and can even reduce our stress levels. Studies show that people who feel connected to others report lower rates of anxiety and depression.

Not only does good social connection impact our psychological wellbeing, its impacts our physical health as well. Countless studies have shown a lack of human connection and feelings of loneliness are more harmful to our health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. By neglecting our need to connect, we put our health at risk.

It can even lengthen our lives. Extensive research that looked at the lifestyles of inhabitants within Blue Zone areas, a term given to geographically regions that are home to some of the world’s oldest people, found healthy social networks and high levels of community engagement were commonalities among the differing zones.

Our relationships and social groups can alter the course of our life, shape the person we are and can change our perception of ourselves and the world as well as offer an important support system. So as you can see, social connectedness creates a positive cycle of good social, emotional and physical wellbeing.

To forge happy and healthy relationships, it is very important we continually attend to and nurture our connection with the people we consider important in our lives. After an incredibly long period where our social interactions were restricted and ultimately reduced, you may find your sense of connection has diminished.

Here are some ways you can improve your social health and reignite your connection with others;

  • Reach out to a friend you may have lost touch with, remember it’s never too late to spark up an old friendship!
  • Take time to ring or meet up with a friend you have not seen in a while.
  • Join a new club or try out a group activity: focus in on your interests and you’ll be sure to find a club or group full of like-minded people.
  • Volunteer: this can strengthen your sense of purpose, provides an opportunity to meet new people and give back to your community.
  • Invite a co-worker out for lunch: now we have more freedom to socialise why not reconnect with your favourite work colleague or arrange a work group activity.
  • Spend quality time with family: this could be planning a family BBQ, a movie night on the weekend or a family day out.
  • Be Present: Step away from your devices when you are in company and have an uninterrupted chat.

Social isolation is a challenging aspect of life to cope with and is detrimental to your health, please know the Thrive team is here to lend a friendly ear, if and when you need it.

This article was first published by Chartered Accountants Ireland. You can read the original article here.