The fall and winter season is brimming with holiday and social gatherings. For some, these seasons are uplifting and bring renewed energy to the start of a new year. For others, they can increase feelings of depression and loneliness. Many of us fall somewhere in the middle.
No matter where you are on the scale or what season it is, it’s undeniable how important meaningful connections and healthy relationships are to our overall well-being. In this blog, we’ll define human connection, go into detail about its mental and physical health benefits, and provide tips on how to improve your connection with others and with yourself.
What is Connection?
Human connection is a core need that’s shown to strengthen the immune system, boost your mood, help you recover from disease quicker, and possibly lengthen your lifespan, according to Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.
Human connection is not only about social interactions with others, but also our connection to our surroundings, and most importantly, our connection to ourselves. Relying on only one area of connection to make us happy can create a reliance on things outside of our control. To feel most fulfilled, avoid putting your connection to happiness in one basket and try a more balanced approach.
- Connection with environment
- Connection with others
- Connection with self
Why Do We Care About Human Connection?
Human connection improves our overall health through its positive impact on our immune system and our hormones (like lowering cortisol – the stress hormone).
Health Benefits of Human Connection
- Enhances self-esteem
- More easily cope with stress
- Lowers risk for disease
- Increases longevity
- Lowers blood pressure
- Promotes other healthy lifestyle behaviors
- Improves mental health and emotional disorders
Lack of supportive relationships, which, again, includes the relationship we have with ourselves, has shown to increase feelings of depression and loneliness. These feelings, coupled with stress, cause our bodies to elicit a fight-or-flight response, which is associated with a release of cortisol into the body. This type of inflammation weakens our immune system.
Inflammation isn’t all bad; it’s our body’s way of fighting off illness. But prolonged stress on the body can have a major negative impact on our immune system. The short-term impact of a weakened immune system is a higher susceptibility to getting sick, like catching a cold. The long-term effect of inflammation in the body is an increased risk for more serious chronic illnesses, like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune conditions.
While lifestyle choices like diet and exercise help to reduce inflammation, supporting mental health through connection is a lifestyle choice that is just as vital.
Ways to Feel More Connected to Your Environment
Let there be light – Open the windows! Go for a walk! Natural sunlight is extremely important for health and overall mood.
Clean and organize – Living in a clean and organized environment can help to relieve stress on the body and the mind.
Spend more time in nature – Opt to do more activities outside, even relaxing, non-active ones. For example, enjoy a cup of coffee, read a book, or go for a hike.
Tips to Improve Social Connection
Spend quality time with friends and family – The more time you spend with friends, family, and loved ones, the more time you have to develop meaningful relationships.
Be attentive and supportive during conversations – Be a good listener. Practice listening to understand and not to reply. Try waiting a few seconds before responding to ensure that the other person has finished with their thought.
Appreciate others and express that appreciation – Always show others how much they mean to you, whether that is through words or actions.
How to Improve Your Connection With Yourself
Notice your feelings – Practice being aware of your feelings. Try naming them as you feel them in order to be more in touch with yourself.
Take time for yourself – For example, grab a book, take a walk, or revisit an old hobby.
Disconnect from technology – Spend time without the interruption of technology.
Try meditating – For a few minutes every day, be still and be present with yourself.
“If you are looking for that one thing to change your life, take a look in the mirror.”
Connecting with ourselves is often the most difficult bucket to fill. Negative thoughts and self-talk can degrade the relationship we have with ourselves without even realizing it. To start improving this aspect of your life, make intentional time for yourself. Be aware of how you treat yourself and the phrase that you repeat to yourself the most. Is that message inspiring you or degrading you?
Self-awareness is essential for self-acceptance, self-love, and connection to those in your life you love and care about.
Where to Find More Information
For more tips on how to show up as your best self at home and at the office, Valley Schools’ wellness program is the community for you. Feel free to reach out to [email protected] for more information!