Time spent with those that you trust and that care about you is good for you, and being around such people can make you feel more connected. Such social connection, it has been found, improves physical health and mental and emotional well-being.
Social connection could be just as critical as looking after yourself in other ways such as getting enough sleep, eating healthily and not smoking. A number of studies have indicated that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. It can mean greater risk of depression and later-life cognitive decline, as well as increased mortality.
On the other hand, strong social connection:
- Strengthens your immune system (research by Steve Cole shows that genes impacted by loneliness also code for immune function and inflammation)
- Helps you recover from disease faster
- May even lengthen your life! People with more social support tend to live longer than those who are more isolated, regardless of the state of their health.
- Results in better mental health, as people who feel more connected to others have been found to have lower levels of anxiety and depression
- Makes you feel happier generally
- Can increase your self-esteem and make you more trusting
- Has also been found to be good for your brain, and it therefore could lower your risk of dementia
- Can create a positive effect on others as well because people tend to trust people who are more trusting and cooperative
- Can relieve harmful levels of stress. For example caring behaviours have been found to trigger the release of stress-reducing hormones
It seems the benefits of social connection are, quite literally, life-enhancing. So it seems like a great idea to get out there (or online) and start connecting with others!