Social relationships and social connectedness can be a source of wellbeing as long as they are fair and based on equity. People with limited social connectedness have poorer mental and physical health, including increased depression.
Social relationships and social connectedness are directly linked to our quality of life. The psychologists Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary in 1995 developed a theory centered around the need to belong; he argues that we are all born with the impulse to seek, build, maintain and protect our social relationships. So, for this reason, we maintain relationships with people at work, at school, in our communities, and in different social contexts.
Connections are important. The connections we create with family, friends, and our community provide us with happiness, security, comfort, support, and a sense of purpose. Being connected to others helps our mental wellbeing and can be a protective factor against anxiety and depression.
Why it’s important to engage in a social relationship in our everyday life?
Social relationships help us boost our emotional, material, and physical health. In terms of emotional rewards, our relationships provide us with emotional support and encouragement in difficult times. Interacting with people we love is fun, relaxing, and enjoyable because some of our most memorable and happy moments are spent in the company of the people we love the most.
We also receive material rewards from our social relationships. People close to us can help us meet our material needs for money, food, shelter, and transportation. We help those we’re close to; they help us in return.
People who have the social support of family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer. Social relationships help reduce harmful levels of stress, which can negatively affect coronary arteries, bowel function, insulin regulation, and the immune system. Teenagers and people in their 20s are at risk when they are isolated; a lack of social relationships can have a direct impact on a young person’s physical wellbeing by increasing the risk of obesity, inflammation, and high blood pressure.
Social relationships can help us mitigate mental disorders
Having someone to talk to and support us is important. Feeling lonely is a normal human emotion and many people feel lonely at different times. Loneliness can be felt by people of all ages, but as we get older, sometimes, loneliness begins to increase.
Mental disorders include anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and alcohol and drug dependency. Common mental disorders can result from stressful experiences, but also occur in the absence of social relationships; stressful experiences do not always lead to mental disorders.
Older adults in the United States who experience loneliness tend to develop depressive symptoms later in life. However, adults who made new social connections over 2 years were more likely to recover from depression.
At the same time, people with mental illnesses who joined recreational and therapeutic groups aimed at social isolation experienced clinically significant reductions in symptoms of depression and anxiety.
How to improve our social relationships?
People can recover from loneliness, so to implement actions to prevent and ameliorate mental disorders, it is necessary to take action.
- Join groups or connect one-to-one with people who share your interests and deeper personal values.
- If you feel lonely, talk to your family and friends. Build a closer and stronger relationship with the people who are close to you and who love you.
- Set up small goals such as calling your friend, mom, or cousin.
- If you just moved to a new area and you don’t know anybody, you can visit or call your local council to find out about local groups or programs.
- Set up small goals such as calling one or two friends/family members once a week.
- Remind someone close to you that you care about them and appreciate having them in your life. It can make them feel like they are valued and it also helps you.
Remember that we are all different and not all strategies will work for everyone, so try some different approaches to see what works for you. If the first thing you try doesn’t work out, try something different.