How Social Connections Improves Our Well-Being
Human beings are social animals, our biological, psychological systems have been programmed to thrive and survive around people. We are constantly in pursuit of respect and acceptance from fellow human beings. Staying connected with people helps us to feel a sense of belonging and links us to the world around us.
However, a recent study has indicated a sharp rise in loneliness and social isolation which has an adverse impact on. Feeling lonely and isolated increases the risk of early death on a similar level as the risk factors of high blood pressure, obesity and smoking.
In this post we will be exploring how staying connected with people can improve our health and well-being.
Health Benefits of Staying Connected
A recent study conducted by the Brigham Young University has documented that people who had close relationship with others and maintained regular social commitments had a 50% lower risk of dying than those who live in loneliness and isolation. Social support is a very important factor in determining our physical, emotional and mental well-being throughout our life span.
Feeling valued and cared for allows us to be more optimistic about our lives and our surrounding. Optimism helps us in coping with stress and negative elements in our lives, in turn, we feel happier.
Happiness is contagious and plays a central role in helping us stay connected with others. Smiling at others encourages them to feel valued which makes them feel connected and happy. This could result in a domino effect of spreading smiles and positivity around us.
According to Robert Waldinger, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, “Our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health. Taking care of our body is important, but tending to our relationships is a form of self-care too.” Developing social relationships is just as effective for our health as a good diet and regular exercise.
This study by Waldinger has also revealed that more than fame and money, it is the companionship and close relationships which make people feel truly happy. Close ties help delay mental and physical decline and protect people from unhappiness.
Social Benefits of Staying Connected
Studies have discovered that having a variety of social relationships help us in developing a positive outlook on life. People with a variety of good relationships with family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, clubs and faith groups tend to live longer. They tend to have better physical and mental health. Hugging has shown to shield against stress; close contact and companionship has been seen to release trigger the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin which makes us feel wanted and loved.
A research study has demonstrated that people who have good social relationships are more socially active and participate across a wide range of activities, whereas people who are socially isolated relate that they are scared to try something new or even to go to the cinema on their own as they feel alone. They tend to end up spending more time alone. Research studies have indicated that isolation and loneliness have been linked to poorer health, depression and increased risk of early death.
Having family and friends helps us to feel more confident and positive in trying new experiences in life, with the comfort that we have the safety net of our family and friends to support us.
Social Connectedness Benefits the Society
Having good social relationships has been seen to have positive benefits for society at large. People having close social relationships volunteer more, they tend to meet new people thus improving increasing their social networks. The influence of their volunteer helps in providing the delivery of vital services to the poor and the needy, therefore further increasing social networks between communities, neighbourhoods and the society. Volunteering promotes active involvement within the community enabling people to increase their social network system.
People have also found that their social relationships prompt them to donate more to charity. Having a more optimistic and positive outlook on life helps people to empathise more with those in less fortunate situations. They feel more inclined to help and support the poor and the needy.
People all around the world are donating their time, money or expertise to help the less fortunate. Philanthropists donate millions of pounds every year to charities around the world; millions of Muslims donate Qurbani meat to the poor around the globe, and activists expend their effort and energy in fighting for causes they believe in, protecting humanity and our planet. The motivation behind this selfless support is the satisfaction they receive in supporting others.
Good social relationships are not just good for our individual health and mental well-being but also the society at large. So look around yourself today and extend a smile to a passer-by, communicate with a homeless person or ask after the welfare of a neighbour, all of these actions have a positive impact on our health and longevity.