February 5

The Importance of Social Connection

Our phones make it easy to believe that we are staying social and connected to our friends and family. In some cases this is true. We can hear more from people that we might never make the time for otherwise. However, the quantity of interactions likely takes away from the quality. Instead of really sitting down and catching up with a friend about what life is like as a new mom, we're just commenting on photos about how cute the baby is. We feel like we know what's going on, but we miss so much when we don't interact face-to-face or over the phone with someone. American values often praise independence and self-sufficiency but this goes against our human biology. Humans are social creatures, we need each other for survival both mentally and physically. Read on to learn more about the importance of social connection and how to foster it for yourself. 

Humans are social creatures and we need connection to buffer against anxiety and depression.

Humans were never meant to do life alone. Babies who create a bond with caregivers release oxytocin, which not only makes them happy but also helps them develop normally. We have mirror neurons in our brains that allow us to immediately understand and reflect what someone else is experiencing. Even the most introverted person will likely smile at a positive interaction with a stranger or a friend. Humans everywhere work in teams, live in groups, and join churches or clubs. 

When we isolate ourselves, we deprive ourselves of the emotional support and understanding that can help alleviate anxiety and depression. When something exciting happens to us, sharing with someone can increase that excitement exponentially. And when something bad happens, the weight can seem a little less intense when someone else is there to understand. Being socially connected can provide us with a feeling of security and comfort, knowing that if we need anything, someone will be there to support us. That feeling of security reduces anxiety and depression by reducing uncertainty and fear that often contribute to anxiety and depression. 

Connection has other benefits such as sparking creativity.

When we know that we are taken care of and have a support system, we are much more likely to feel like we have space to try more creative things. It might be something as big as starting a new business or as simple as joining an evening art class because you have someone who can take care of your kids. 

Although many people are complaining about returning to the office, being around other people can help us come up with new ideas. When we are around people who have different thinking styles than we do, they can help us see things differently. 

It's important to have quality connection, not just any connection.

It is important to note that not just any type of social interaction will feel good. When thinking of quality connection, you want to pay attention to the who and the what. It is important to spend time with people who share your values and/or who feel good to be around. Furthermore, getting coffee with a friend is a much more high-quality type of connection than liking an Instagram post. If you feel drained every time you spend time with a certain person, pay attention to that and evaluate if that time might be better spent with someone who brings you more joy. If you find that you've only interacted with a close friend over a few texts or social media, pick up the phone and call or change things up and send a video message. Little moments like that can greatly increase the quality of our connections which in turn will boost our mood. 

Finding connection as an adult can be hard but volunteering or taking a class can be a great place to start.

So many of us lose our close-knit connections the older we get. We move, family life changes, and jobs change. Finding a new community can be hard when we don't have built-in structures like schools to force us to be around people. In our very digital world, it's easy to never have to leave the house for work, groceries, or entertainment. Finding something you care about and volunteering can be a great way to start to meet people in a low-risk way. Classes are another great place to start. People can feel more connected when they are learning something together, whether it is an exercise routine, a pottery technique, or a recipe. Churches, community centers, or even coworking spaces can provide a wonderful way to have built-in connection. 

Finding people you feel connected to and fostering those connections might sometimes feel like hard work, but it has huge benefits to your mental health and is worth the investment.  

Anne Rice, LPC, LMHC, CPCS

About the author

Anne is a licensed therapist in both New York and Georgia. She is the owner of Firefly Wellness Counseling located in the Atlanta area. Her team works with all members of the family struggling with anxiety, depression, and big life changes. Anne loves helping adults and teens navigate life's difficulties by creating a comfortable and safe place to share anything and everything that is on their minds. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Princeton University and her graduate degree in Counseling Psychology from Boston College.


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