The Power of Social Connection

As I dropped off my son at his summer program this morning, I had the opportunity to chat for a few moments with another mom friend of mine.  After unloading a bit about our stresses for the week, we started talking about how isolating it can feel as a parent at times.  It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day busy-ness of rushing around, running errands, and balancing work and home.  In our fast-paced culture, it can be hard to find a spare moment to just sit and relax, much less to stop and connect with a friend.

Whether you're a parent or not, connecting with others can often feel like a difficult challenge.  Feeling isolated and disconnected is a topic that frequently comes up in my office.  Sometimes it feels like we don't have enough time in the day to create and nurture connections.  At other times it feels like we're really trying to reach out, but other people aren't interested in making new connections or friendships.

And then, on top of that, it also can feel like we're constantly bombarded by images on TV and social media about what our social life is "supposed" to look like.

Interestingly, some past research found that being connected with others socially has as much or more impact on our long-term health and mortality rates than things like obesity, alcohol use, and cigarette smoking.  

More recent studies have continued to find that people who are connected with others tend to live longer.

I don't know about you, but some days when I read things like this, I sit and think, "oh great.  So, not only am I lonely and disconnected sometimes, but I'm messing up my health, too."

So what if you see this and have the same thought?  Well, take heart!

Research from Emma Seppala, Ph.D. suggests that while social connection has important physical and mental health benefits, those benefits kick in even if you just feel connected to others around you, regardless of your number of friends or the number of events on your calendar for the weekend.

So, you want to feel more connected?  Try these suggestions:

  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter or other local nonprofit

  • Strike up a conversation with a waitress or a barista

  • Attend a group fitness class or join a walking group

  • Phone an old friend or family member

  • Attend a religious service in your faith community

Remember, the benefit is in feeling connected with those around you.  And check out this infographic from Emma Seppala, Ph.D. for more details on the benefits of social connection:

Embedded from Emma Seppälä, Ph.D.

Connectedness & Health: The Science of Social Connection INFOGRAPHIC - An Infographic from Emma Seppälä, Ph.D.