The Importance of Social Connection for Wellbeing: Building and Nurturing Meaningful Relationships

The Importance of Social Connection for Wellbeing: Building and Nurturing Meaningful Relationships

In an increasingly online world, it can be hard to build and maintain true and genuine social connections, but the benefit of the relationships on both our mental and physical wellbeing cannot be overstated. 

A social connection can be anything from friendship and family ties, to bonds with your local community and professional relationships. Nurturing these relationships can help you feel connected to your surrounding environment, feel included by the people around you and help to ease feelings of loneliness and isolation. 

In this blog we will explore the benefits of social connections, find ways you can build these relationships and really make the most of the people around you.

Benefits of Social Connections

Strong social ties to your friends, family and people in your daily life are a cornerstone of overall mental wellness. By having a close circle of people you can rely on, you will naturally have a lower stress level, which in turn will help you to manage stress when it does come along. Have you ever found that a problem seems much smaller after sharing it with someone close to you? Even the feeling of just having shared your thoughts with someone can ease the load. It’s important to surround yourself with people who encourage you, listen to your feelings and offer support or advice when it is asked for. 

Engaging with people on a regular basis can also boost your mood, talking with them about anything from major life events, to the recent football score helps you to feel connected and involved in the flow of life around you. This helps to combat feelings of loneliness and depression, through the release of “feel-good” hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin.  

Aside from the mental benefits of social connection, it can also work wonders for your physical health too! Studies show that people who engage with others regularly have stronger immune systems, reduced inflammation and tend to live longer, healthier lives. Friends and family can encourage you and hold you accountable when you share health and wellness goals with them, or may even offer to join you on your morning jog or healthy food-shop.

Being socially active can also keep your mind active. With endless topics to discuss and think about, it greatly reduces the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, particularly in older adults. It can also help to stimulate more creative thinking, problem solving and forward planning. 

Building Meaningful Relationships

There are many things to consider when talking about how to foster these relationships, and it is very important to understand that everyone is different, with varying levels of comfort around socialising, particularly with strangers or loose acquaintances. Socialising can take a lot of effort for some, so please proceed at your own pace. That being said, here are a few things that are good starting points.

Shared interests are a great place to start when looking to make conversation with new people. Participating in activities that you enjoy will certainly give you the opportunity to meet like-minded people. Even just chatting about popular shows, music or video games is a great place to start. 

Community engagement can also be a great place to meet people. Joining clubs, groups, sports teams etc or volunteering in community events will definitely help to expand your social circles, as you meet more people. This is a great tip for people moving to a new area – this can feel really scary and socially isolating, but by getting involved you can definitely find your crowd!

Actively listening to people around you, at work or friends of friends, can really help you to connect. Showing genuinely interest in others’ perspectives and opinions will give you plenty of talking points.

Honest communication is a very important area of starting and developing relationships. Expressing your thoughts and feelings openly (as openly as you feel comfortable) will encourage other people to open up to you and help to deepen your connection. 

Deepening existing relationships is also surprisingly handy in making new ones. By getting socially close to your friends, you may find yourself rubbing shoulders with their friends too, being introduced to co-workers or significant others, that you may find common ground with.

Nurturing Social Connections

So, you’ve successfully found your people, or person, but what happens next? Its very important to stay active and engaged with people in your life, but communicating with them on a schedule that suits you both is a very important factor in keeping that relationship going. Lots of people end up “falling out of touch”, but this is very easy to avoid. By keeping regular contact, either through calls, messages or visits, lets you spend time together, make new memories and strengthen your connection. Planning social events its also a great way to maintain these relationships, family barbeques, dinner with friends or sports with your partner can help you to keep in touch, as well as meet new people.

Offering emotional support is also a key part in maintaining your relationships. By showing your friends and family that you are there for them in times of need, offering a hand or a listening ear, you can become a reliable connection, and will find that you have more support when you need it. On the flip side, celebrating significant life goals or milestones with people is a great way to deepen your connection, by creating new memories and showing your support of others achievements. 

With any relationship, there is bound to be conflict. The topic of the conflict is usually not important, but the way it is dealt with can make or break a good relationship. Resolving a conflict can be a difficult task, but it is important to resolve these disagreements to avoid feelings of resentment. Conflicts ought to be resolved constructively, focusing on mutual understanding and compromise, rather than blaming or name-calling. 

Another important element to this is forgiveness, an appreciation that the people around you will make mistakes, and knowing when to forgive them and move forward will ultimately have a positive effect on your wellbeing. Getting through these conflicts with your connection still intact can actually deepen your relationship with that person. 

The takeaway

To round off this blog, we can conclude that seeking and nurturing social connection has great benefits for both your mental and physical wellbeing, can help you to feel less isolated and even boost your immune system. But maintaining these relationships takes both time and effort, and a good degree of commitment, but the rewards of health, happiness and fulfilment are invaluable. 

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