Benefits of Social Connection – a Pillar of Health
Our health and wellness is dependant on the major pillars of health. Depending on the model that you choose, social connection should always be included as an important pillar.
Looking ahead in 2023, with the bulk of the pandemic nearly behind us, Mind Body Soul Integrative Clinic and our team have been reflecting upon how important social connections and community are to our mental health and wellness. We have seen significant increases in depression and anxiety, greater levels of stress across the country and an aging population. A meta-analysis conducted by Samtani et al. (2022) found a significant correlation between social connections and slower cognitive decline! This means that the relationships in our life, and the frequency in which we nourish them, has a direct impact on our cognitive and mental health.
Social connection can look like:
- Living with others
- Attending a weekly community group
- Interaction with friends and family weekly
- Being married or in a relationship
Your cognitive health refers to how well you think, learn, and remember. Mental health is comprised of our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It was found that the size of our community, strength of social groups, and cohabitation (social bonding) moderates perceived stress and cognitive decline (Perry et al., 2022).
What contributes to cognitive decline (NIH National Institute on Aging, 2020)?
- Lack of physical activity
- Mental health disorders
- Poor diet
- Smoking and addiction
- High blood pressure
- Sleep problems
- Social isolation and loneliness
As humans, we are hardwired for connection and community. We believe social connection is a crucial feature of our wellbeing. Recent studies indicate that social support contributes to maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood sugar, improving cardiovascular health, immunity, decreased depressive symptoms, decreased post-traumatic stress symptoms, and an increase in our mental health overall (Martino et al., 2016).
5 small steps to increase positive relational moments daily
- Be intentional throughout your day! Say hello to people, ask how a colleague’s day is going, and engage in an active conversation.
- Increase your opportunities to interact with your community! Volunteer, try that yoga class you’ve been meaning to attend, join a snowshoe group, go for a walk in your neighbourhood, or go to the market!
- Give back to your community and engage in philanthropy. Acts of kindness make our community what it is, start small! The next chance you get, hold the door for someone or smile at a stranger.
- Reach out! Call the family member you haven’t chatted with in a while, ask your coworker to lunch, chat with your neighbour.
- Practice self-connection. Meditate, journal about the gratitude you feel about the relationships in your life, and practice being intentionally kind to yourself!
Make 2023 the year where you connect more, build new relationships, strengthen existing ones and support your own wellbeing while doing this!
What does improving your connections look like for 2023?
Written by Serena Weatherhead, BA and 2024 Candidate for Clinical Counsellor
Martino, J., Pegg, J., & Frates, P. E. (2015). The connection prescription: Using the power of social interactions and the deep desire for connectedness to empower health and wellness. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 11 (6). https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827615608788
NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA) (2020, October 1). Cognitive health and older adults. National Institute on ageing. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/cognitive-health-and-older-adults
Perry, L. B., McConnel, R. W., Coleman, E. M., Roth, R. A., Peng, S., Apostolova, G. L. (2022) Why the cognitive “fountain of youth” may be upstream: Pathways to dementia risk and resiliency through social connectedness. National Library of Medicine, 18 (5) 934-941. http://dx.doi.org/0.1002/alz.12443
Fagan, A. (2019, July 9). 5 ways to add more moments of social connection to your life: Did you know that relationships are good for human health? Psychology Today.https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/flourish-and-thrive/201907/5-ways-add-more-moments-social-connection-your-life
Samtani, S., Mahalingam, G., Lam, P. C. B., Lipnicki, M. D., Lima-Costa, F. M., Blay, L. S., Castro-Costa, E., Shifu, X., Guerchet, M., Preux, P., Gbessemehlan, A., Igmar, S., Najar, J., Sterner, R. T., Scarmeas, N., Kim, K., Riedel-Heller, S., Rohr, S., Pabst, A., … Brodaty, H. (2022) Associations between social connections and cognition: A global collaborative individual participant data meta-analysis. National Library of Medicine, 3 (11) 740-753. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2666-7568