We humans are sociable creatures and saying so might seem like stating the obvious.  However, a great deal of evidence shows that more of us than ever are struggling to form and maintain relationships, whether with a partner, friends, family or with the wider community.  Does it matter if we don’t have many meaningful social connections in our lives? Again, the evidence points to a resounding ‘yes!’

The danger of disconnection

We’re used to the idea that smoking, drinking heavily, not exercising, eating a poor diet and so forth will negatively impact our health.  After all, it seems fairly obvious that what we put into our bodies will have an effect.  What we may be less familiar with is that the state of our emotional wellbeing can have a surprisingly similar effect on us physically and mentally;

  • Increased risk of depression and anxiety
  • Higher levels of stress
  • A lowered ability to fight off infection and delayed recovery from ailments/surgery
  • Increased risk of internal inflammation and diseases such as cancer
  • A reduction in cognitive function
  • A considerably higher risk of premature death

Social connection is key to mental wellbeing

That all sounds rather bleak, so let’s look at what positives good quality relationships can bring to our lives (and yes, the focus is on quality here, not quantity).

Those of us who are socially connected are happier, healthier and we live longer.  Our mental health tends to be far better.  We feel a sense of connection, of belonging.  Having strong social bonds helps us to lower our stress levels and in fact, just by caring for another person, stress reducing hormones such as oxytocin are often released by the body.

How to build, improve and maintain our relationships

It really isn’t about how many friends you have, if you are in a committed relationship or even what your family situation is, it’s the quality of what you have that counts.  Look at the friendships you already have; could you boost that connection? When was the last time you spoke on the phone or met for lunch?  Nurturing that bond feels good and your friend is likely to reciprocate. 

If you feel you could benefit from a new friendship, perhaps consider a colleague - is there anyone you feel a connection with?  Why not try initiating a conversation that goes beyond work, you never know what you might discover! If you feel that your social life is lacking, generally, and your free time is a little ‘too free’ you could consider taking up a new hobby, attending a class or even volunteering.  Volunteering in particular is a fantastic way to boost feelings of wellbeing, not only might you make new friends, you will undoubtedly feel good about having spent your time altruistically.

We love to make new connections at Zeffr, so if you enjoy our blog, why not sign up to our newsletter, or check out our podcast for more fantastic mood-improving ideas!