When thinking about healthy living, most of us picture a diet rich in fruits and veggies, eight hours of sleep every night, and plenty of physical exercises. But what many people tend to forget is that true health happens when both the mind and the body are in a good place. As humans, we instinctively feel the need to connect to others socially and emotionally. Whether we refer to friends, family, or life partners, we want to be surrounded by people with whom we share similar beliefs. The more scientists research our attachment needs, the clearer it becomes that social and emotional connections play a huge role in our lives.
Several studies on connectedness and health have found that people with strong social connections:
- Have a 50% increased chance of longevity [Source]
- Have stronger immune systems and recover faster from diseases. That’s because the genes that are impacted by loneliness are also responsible for immune responses and inflammation. [Source]
- Have lowers levels of anxiety and depression [Source]
- Are generally more empathic and have more self-esteem
At the same time, research has also found that people who lack social and emotional connections:
- Have higher health risks than people with obesity and high blood pressure. One study even found that loneliness is as unhealthy as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
- Are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, which, apart from causing psychological problems, also weaken the immune system and make you more susceptible to diseases.
- Recover slower from diseases
- Have higher inflammation at the cellular level
- Are more likely to have antisocial and risk-taking behaviour
- Have higher suicide risk
So, if you feel better after catching up with your best friend or having a long talk with your partner, it’s not just your mind that’s thankful – it’s your entire body reaping the benefits of feeling connected.
But what does being connected mean exactly?
Contrary to popular belief, feeling connected has nothing to do with your number of followers on social media or how many people you have in your circle of friends. Some people are constantly surrounded by others, but still feel alone and emotionally distant from them.
You can feel connected even if you’re an introvert and don’t go to parties. In fact, researchers explain that a sense of connection is internal, so if you feel connected to others on the inside, your body will enjoy all the benefits we talked of above.
From a health perspective, having one person that you can talk to about your problems is better than having a large circle where you feel that no one understands you.
Additionally, even if you don’t have friends, you can nurture that deep sense of connection by volunteering and supporting local communities. This creates a sense of purpose and belonging. And, don’t forget, everything starts with taking care of yourself. If you practice self-care and avoid stress, you’re much more likely to feel connected and develop meaningful connections with those around you.
Whether you want to further explore the importance of feeling connected or discuss the best
strategies to boost your sense of connection, you can sign up to our weekly online class or for my 12 weeks programme.