We all know how to look after ourselves, right? Eat your veggies, do some exercise and
get plenty of sleep. Well, that might be a. good start, but did you know social connection is just as important and might help you live longer?!
A recent landmark study showed that strong social connections increase your chance of longevity by 50%, your immune system will also be strengthened, and you’ll recover faster from disease. While a lack of social connection is worse for your health than obesity, high blood pressure and even smoking.
If you feel more connected to others
In general, you’re going to have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Studies show you’ll probably have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others and you’ll be more trusting and cooperative. And thanks to the universal law of attraction, others will be more trusting and cooperating with you. This leads to a positive feedback loop of social, emotional, and physical well-being.
If you don’t feel connected to others
On the flip side of that, however, lower levels of social connection can lead to a decline
in physical and psychological health, along with an increased likelihood for antisocial, and even suicidal behaviour. This leads to further isolation, and unfortunately, a feedback loop in the opposite direction.
Feeling lonely? Ironically enough, you’re not alone!
Despite its clear importance for health and survival, research shows that social connectedness is waning at an alarming rate in the US. One sociological study showed the number of ‘close friends’ people have declined rapidly between 1985 and 2004. Based on the modal number of close others, defined as a person you feel comfortable sharing a personal problem with the average American had three in 1985, and by 2004, over 25% sadly reported they had no-one to confide in, at all.
No wonder it’s been called an epidemic of loneliness, with increased reports of isolation, alienation, and loneliness being one of the leading reasons people seek psychological counselling.
But it it’s not all bad news
Social connection has more to do with your subjective feelings of connection, as opposed to your actual number of friends. So, you if you’re feeling lonely, perhaps you just need to reach out to someone. It’s not that they’re non-existent, it could just be your perception that they’re ‘too busy’ or not interested. Conversely, you might have very few people in your life at all, no close friends, and relatives but you still feel very connected from within.
In the end, it’s all about how you feel about your connection with other human beings or with our animal friends. And one way to increase connection, if you think you’re lacking in that regards, is the practice of self-care.
Esther van der Sande, The School of Self-Care | Inspire your Health