We crave interaction and social connection, even though sometimes we may not realise it. Interacting with others – through a smile or speaking to a friend, can lift our spirits and make us feel valued.
This blog post discusses social connections and how they can impact mental well-being.
Humans are social animals. Our ancestors survived because they formed communities supporting and protecting each other. Friendships, family, romantic relationships, and even casual acquaintances are people around us who we rely on for support to protect us from the impacts of stress, anxiety and depression. Research shows that having connections can lower the chances of experiencing health issues, enhance overall happiness, and even contribute to a longer lifespan.  
Benefits of social connections
Social connections play a role in supporting mental well-being due to the sense of belonging and purpose. When people accept who we truly are, it gives us a feeling of validation and genuine recognition. We also believe and feel we have a purpose in their lives, which can provide us with purpose and guidance. For example, being a supportive friend or a caring parent can boost our confidence and self-esteem.
Another benefit of social connections is that they can buffer against stress. When confronted with difficulties, having a person to converse with, express frustrations to or seek guidance from can truly have an impact. Sometimes when we share our problems with others, it can help us gain a perspective, find support and even receive practical solutions. That’s why certain mental health professionals suggest participating in group therapy or support groups. It allows individuals to connect with others who have gone through experiences.
The science behind social connections
The release of hormones like oxytocin can be triggered when we connect with each other. This hormone is the feel good hormone and it reduces levels of stress and anxiety.
Numerous research show that social connections can strengthen the immune system, protect against mental health disorders, and even increase our lifespan. On the other hand, social isolation has been linked to depression and cognitive decline.  This is why it’s so important to maintain meaningful connections with others, whether it’s through friendships, family, or community activities.
Social media and mental health
Regrettably, social bonds have faced challenges mainly due to the prominence of social media and technology. Social media has advantages, such as helping us connect with loved ones who are geographically distant. It can also lead to loneliness and the tendency to compare ourselves.
There are research to the negative effect of social media such as a anxiety, depression, and loneliness.   That’s why finding a balance between offline and online interactions and focusing on the quality of social connection rather than quantity.
The Importance of Friendships and Family
As in the adage, “Friends are the family we choose” – there’s more truth to it than meets the eye. Friends play a role in our lives. They are the sprinkles on the cupcake of life, adding colour, flavour, and a dash of fun. They’re there to share our laughter, wipe our tears, and transform mundane moments into cherished memories.
Family, on the other hand, is the soft pillow we land on when life pushes us off a cliff. They serve as the safety cushion that supports us when we encounter difficulties and the helping hand that lifts us when we experience setbacks. They are the ever-reliable lighthouse guiding our ship through the stormy sea of life.
Let’s not forget that these bonds are not just about the good times—they also fortify us in our times of need. They lend us strength, provide solace, and paint silver linings on our darkest clouds.
Finding Support and Understanding in Times of Need
When faced with challenges, it is often said that those who are determined do rise to the occasion. It’s essential to acknowledge that even resilient individuals can experience moments of vulnerability.
It’s during these moments that the importance of social connections truly shines. Let’s set the scene – you’ve just had a terrible day at work; someone broke your favourite vase from a relative, and your take-out dinner was a culinary disaster. This is the perfect storm, and you need an outlet.
In these times, turning to our social connections—those wonderful people who make up our network—can provide the support we crave and the understanding we need. They’re the friends who send memes that make you snort with laughter, the family who reminds you of your strengths when you only see your weaknesses and the online community members who share words of encouragement and stories of resilience that inspire you.
These connections become our lifelines, throwing us a life buoy when we feel like drowning in an ocean of stress or despair. They listen, empathise, and offer a shoulder to lean on.
Overcoming social anxiety
For people struggling with social anxiety, the thought of connecting with others can be daunting or difficult. Social anxiety is a common and there are many resources available for those needing help. Therapy, support groups, and practising mindfulness techniques can all be effective in managing social anxiety and eventually building meaningful connections.
How to Improve Social Connections
Make sure to try to keep in touch with the people who are important to you. Try to schedule interactions – a phone call every week, meeting up for a coffee, or participating in group activities.
Join social clubs, groups, or volunteer organisations that align with your interests or values.
Practice active listening and even empathy when interacting with others. This can help deepen your connections and foster mutual respect and understanding.
Be open to new experiences and relationships. Sometimes, we can get stuck in our comfort zones and miss opportunities to connect with fascinating people or explore new interests.
From releasing feel-good hormones to providing a sense of security during difficult times, there are countless benefits to fostering connections with others. Whether volunteering, joining a club or team, or reaching out to a friend for support, many ways exist to build and maintain meaningful connections.
The key is to be open to new experiences, embrace vulnerability, and prioritise human connection.
You’re not alone in this wide world.