Disclaimer: The post is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.
Staying connected with friends, family, and other loved ones can do more for your physical and mental health than you might imagine, including giving you the ability to live a longer, healthier life. With busy schedules and responsibilities at home and work, it may be difficult to keep up with the ones you love. Yet, your quality of life depends on it. Here, we’ll explore the risks associated with social isolation and loneliness and cover the benefits of building a tight-knit community that you can rely on.
Benefits Of Social Connection
Staying connected with loved ones can be key to both physical and mental well-being. Here, we’ve compiled a list of advantages associated with close relationships.
- Sense of belonging: Humans are naturally wired to need a sense of belonging. Spending time with loved ones can stave off loneliness and social isolation, helping you to feel appreciated, valued, and wanted. This sense of security and safety can help you develop healthy attachments from which you can engage with the world around you.
- Enhanced health: Those who maintain close relationships with friends and family members report experiencing fewer health-related concerns. This expands beyond a mild case of the cold or flu, meaning that those who are socially connected are also less likely to develop heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and more.
- Increased happiness: Everyone finds joy in different things in life, but close social ties are often ranked highly on the list of reasons to feel happy. Investing time in loved ones and nurturing those ties can lead to increased satisfaction with life. In fact, research shows that “people who value social relationships are more likely to be happy than those who value achievements in other life domains, such as education and career.”
- Reduced risk of mental illness: With the prevalence of mental health conditions on the rise, social connection has never been more important. Close friends and family members can stave off anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders. These relationships can be critical during times of stress, loneliness, or sadness, reminding you that you’re not alone and that you have the strength to press on.
- Stress reduction: Life is often full of stressors, making it vital to have strategies in place that promote relaxation after a tough day. Loved ones can offer advice and encouragement, reminding you of your greatest features and making you laugh even when you don’t feel like it. Their support can help you build resilience even in the face of life’s challenges.
- Personal development: Sometimes, those closest to you seem to know you better than you know yourself. The people in your life can encourage you to grow and make changes to your benefit. They can be there as you make challenging decisions and offer a support system to fall back on in times of failure.
- A longer lifespan: Given that social connection reduces one’s risk for serious illness, those who consistently spend time with loved ones tend to live longer.
Remember, it’s not the quantity but the quality of your relationships that matters most. When seeking new connections, search for people who share your values and interests. Traits like reliability, trustworthiness, and empathy are all positive qualities to look for.
The Risks Of Social Isolation
Social connection promotes longevity and wellness, while being disconnected can lead to a host of potential struggles. Certain groups may be at a higher risk of social isolation, including the elderly, those who live in rural areas, low-income individuals, and people who don’t speak the predominant language. Other risk factors include having a chronic physical or mental health condition, being a survivor of abuse, living alone, and experiencing a major life change such as a move or divorce. Some of the risks associated with social isolation include:
- Poor sleep quality
- Increased risk of mental illness, such as depression and anxiety
- Reduced immune function
- Accelerated cognitive decline
- Higher risk of physical illnesses, like heart disease and stroke
- Premature death
- Increased risk of self-harm and suicide
Considering these risks and benefits, it’s clear that loved ones hold a place of importance in our lives.
Struggling To Connect With Others?
Some people seem to be natural at building and maintaining healthy connections, while others might struggle with this task. If you or someone you know has a hard time connecting with other people, there may be several possible explanations. Some potential reasons include trauma, social anxiety, personality disorders, lack of experience, fear of rejection, introversion, insecurity, lack of effort, time constraints, trust issues, and more. BetterHelp offers online therapy for personality disorders and other concerns that may make it difficult to stay socially connected. Speaking to a therapist could be instrumental in overcoming these concerns and building a solid support system.
Understanding the importance of social connection can motivate you to stay committed to finding your tribe—the people you know you can depend on and who genuinely care for you. With the latest advances in technology, there are numerous ways to stay connected to other people, especially when meeting up in person isn’t possible. A simple phone call or FaceTime session could make the difference between feeling disconnected and maintaining a sense of belonging. At the end of the day, knowing you have at least one person with your best interests at heart can provide the support and security you need to lead a fulfilling life.