The Powerful Benefits of Social Connection

By Sharon Moore on December 14, 2012

We all know that proper diet, exercise and rest are important to stay healthy. But even if you do all these, you could still be endangering your health if you lack social connection, experts say.

A simple, yet meaningful way to make your life happier and more colourful is to create true, lasting friendships. Do you remember the fun-filled weekends you spent with your friends? How about those crying times? Friends don’t just make you feel better and cheer you up during the tough times. They can also help improve your health! A growing body of research reveals that social connection improves physical health and psychological well-being. It strengthens your immune system, making you less vulnerable to infections such as flu and cold, and other serious illnesses. And here’s the best benefit: social connection may double your life expectancy rate!

On the other side, lack of friends can have real damage on your physical health and well-being. One study says lack of social connection is as harmful as obesity, cigarette smoking, and high blood pressure. It also leads to depression, anxiety, antisocial behaviour, and even suicidal behaviour. Why?

According to Professor Brene Brown, a social connection specialist from the University of Houston, humans are biologically hard-wired to love and be loved, and to belong. They may think they want money, fame, and all the material things in the world, but in the deepest part of their beings, people look for love and a sense of belongingness.

Despite the great importance of having friends, sociological experts suggest that a lack of connection is rising. In a US study, researchers found that one in four people doesn’t have anyone to call a close friend. This, according to psychologists, is probably the reason behind the surge in the number of people seeking counselling help for isolation, loneliness and alienation.

Expanding your social network

Ellen Gold, who wrote the article ‘Benefits of Social Interactions’, argues that social connection is much more important in the modern society because households tend to get smaller and smaller. As a result, people have no siblings or cousins to get support from in times of distress. It is also common for people nowadays to move to other places for work and education.

Just as you take care of your car, house and other things you value in life, you also need to take good care of your priceless treasures – your friends. With the availability of online platforms such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, you can stay connected with your friends no matter where you are. Utilising the social media is also a great way to expand your network. Through them, you get to meet new people and make friends with them.

Not really sociable? It’s okay. Experts say it doesn’t matter if you have big or small social network. What is most important is the quality of friendship you’ve got. Others may have thousands of friends on Facebook but it doesn’t mean they have ‘connection’ – just like the feeling of being alone in a crowd of strangers.  

So the next time you search for friends, focus on the quality and not the quantity. Nonetheless, the more folks you’ve got, the merrier!

 

Dear Reader,

As therapists, what advice can you give to people who are too diffident to socialise and find new friends?

Share your comments below.

 

Source of this article:

Connect To Thrive

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