You may know by now that strong social connections are important to your physical and mental health. Connections improve your immune system and increase your chance of longevity. The importance of strong connections cannot be overstated.
In fact, studies which “control for baseline health status, consistently show increased risk of death among persons with a low quantity, and sometimes low quality, of social relationships.”
If social connections are so important, how do we cultivate them? Let's look at the ways we can foster connection in our relationships with others and with ourselves.
It’s important to make time for important people in your life. If you are lucky enough to have people that you connect with on a deep level, make them a priority.
Relationships take time. There are no shortcuts when it comes to building relationships. You need to invest time in them if you want quality connections.
Often life is busy, and connections don’t always happen easily. When there are many demands for your time, it may be important to schedule time with those you love. Put it on your calendar and make it a priority.
If you don’t make time for this, you will miss out on the opportunity to deepen your connection with people.
Try to limit distractions. Some people find they need to get out of their house because at home too many other things vie for their attention. Sometimes parents enjoy focused time with friends without their kids around.
It can also be important to put the cell phone away when you are with those you love. Research has found that just the presence of a cell phone can interfere with feelings of closeness and connection.
Minimizing distractions allows you to enter into the activity or conversation you are having, and it shows the other person you are really invested in your time together.
Sometimes we don’t have people who are available to connect with us in a meaningful way. But there is a simple way to cultivate a sense of community.
Simply talk with people that you interact with on a daily basis. Even saying “hello” to a service provider or someone you pass on the street can begin to create a feeling of connection with your community.
If you are in a romantic relationship, don't take your significant other for granted. It is good to feel a sense of security, but don’t allow that to keep you from working on the relationships.
Sometimes it is helpful to build little rituals into your day, so that you can connect with your partner in a consistent intentional way. Consider using the 7 Daily Rituals Intentional Couples Use to Cultivate Lasting Love.
Children in Your Life
People often forget how life giving it can be to intentionally connect with the children around you.
You don’t have to impress kids. They simply want a little attention and love. Whether it’s playing a game, reading a story, or hearing about their favorite superhero kids love to connect.
Don’t Forget Yourself
Connecting to yourself is extremely powerful even if you are surrounded by people. Everyone needs this important connection, because we connect better with others when we are truly connected to ourselves.
Set aside a little time for solitude each day, and find some time to give yourself a little more space for solitude from time to time. Each person's desire for time alone may vary from day to day. Listen to yourself and honor the time you need on your own.
One great way to connect with yourself is through guided meditations. Kristen Neff has some amazing self-compassion guided meditations that you can find here. Self-compassion can be especially important when combating loneliness.
I hope you are able to find some ways to connect with yourself, others, and your community this week. It isn’t something we should take for granted as our physical and emotional health rely on social connections!