“Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
– Brené Brown
We highly doubt that any of us would argue that connecting with others is a bad thing. On the contrary, connection is a GREAT thing! It means you find enjoyment in spending time together or conversing with one another through shared interests and/or mutual respect. Not to mention, when we connect with others, we feel good. Often we leave these conversations happier, lighter, or just all together in a better mood. Why is that exactly?
We tend to think of the obvious things when it comes to health: eating right, exercise, an appropriate amount of sleep. But, research shows that connecting with others can actually lead to greater health physically and mentally, as well.
“Scientists are investigating the biological and behavioral factors that account for the health benefits of connecting with others. For example, they’ve found that it helps relieve harmful levels of stress, which can adversely affect coronary arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system. Another line of research suggests that caring behaviors trigger the release of stress-reducing hormones.” (Harvard Health Publishing)
Strong relationship connections are directly linked to decreased depression and anxiety, greater empathy for others, and higher self-esteem. These connections do more than just lighten our mood and give us energy. They can strengthen our immune system, increase longevity, and help to prevent physiological problems.
Physical and mental health are so closely correlated: they directly affect each other. When we are anxious and stressed, this weakens our immune system which makes our bodies more susceptible to sickness and disease. Likewise, when we are in a good place mentally and emotionally, our bodies tend to be far less exhausted and worn down.
So what can we do to be more connected?
Strike Up Conversation
This can be at the drive-thru, grocery store, or even pick-up line at school. Even these brief few-minute interactions can create a connection.
Make The First Move
You can’t always wait for another person to initiate. Challenge yourself to find areas in which you can be more social. Invite a friend out for coffee, sit with a new co-worker at lunch in the break room, or even join a local book club. These little moments can help create commonality and forge a new or deeper connection with those around you.
Don’t Rely On Social Media
While social media is a great tool for being able to get a lot of information and keep up with people from a high level, don’t use it as a replacement for real, human, connections! Instead of spending time behind a screen, dial up a friend or family member and go on a walk, get a meal, or invite someone over for dinner. That time and conversation spent in person will be far more memorable than commenting on someone’s social media post.
And don’t worry – connection is not about the quantity of friends you have, but the quality. So, this week, look for ways to connect with those around you…it may be one of the best things you can do for your health!