Humans are social creatures. We are not designed to operate in isolation. Connecting with friends, family, colleagues, nature and your community are all great for your overall sense of wellbeing. Building these connections will enrich your life in a variety of ways and reduce the chances of you experiencing isolation and loneliness.
We all have experienced the benefits of regular social contact with our friends and family, but we can even benefit greatly from a small interaction with our local barista or colleague. When we connect with others physically, whether that be through a hug or even by making eye contact, our brain releases the neurotransmitters dopamine and oxytocin which make us feel good. This hit of neurotransmitters is the reason that connecting with others throughout the day can help you instantly feel better and combat any feelings of stress or anxiety that have built up. The brain actually encourages you to seek out more connection to continue to be rewarded with dopamine and oxytocin. Feeling ‘socially connected’ increases feelings of belonging, purpose, increased levels of happiness, reduces our perceived levels of stress and improves self-worth and confidence.
Chances are that in some way most of us value connecting with colleagues, family and friends so it is important, especially when you are busy, to give yourself permission to put some time and energy into it. The first step is being aware of your daily barriers and constraints that prevent you from connecting with others and then looking for ways to add more into your day.
If you want to feel (and be) more connected, you have to make yourself available to interact with other people. Many people feel they need to be chained to their desk to be productive, however taking regular breaks at least every 90 minutes has been shown to improve your productivity. Use your break to ‘connect’ and move by walking across the office to speak to a colleague. You may find a five-minute conversation could save 20 emails and give you a spike in energy with it. Why not connect while you move by conducting a walking meeting. You’ll get your step count up and a dose of sunlight and fresh air with it.
Pay attention to other people — in traffic, at the gym, at work. Relate to people as human beings, not as objects in your path. Being seen is an acknowledgment of one's worth and we all need that. The more you see other people, the more you'll allow them to see you, too.
Be the first to smile or introduce yourself to a new person or spark up a conversation in the lunchroom. Don't assume nobody wants to be bothered or is too busy for a conversation. When someone else smiles or starts a conversation with you, you usually appreciate it so spread the love. Relationships can burst onto the scene as well as evolve. In the newest of places and the oddest of circumstances, meaningful and transformative social connections can take hold, so never miss the opportunity because you had your head in your phone.
Assess your use of social media and screen time or anything that distracts you and pulls you out of what's happening here and now. Spending hours mindlessly scrolling low-value media can displace the time for making real connections. Set yourself limits on social media and use your spare time to organise face to face catch ups with the people that matter. You could start by switching your phone into ‘aeroplane mode’ for a portion of a day or picking one day a week where you go social media free. Whilst it may sound counter-intuitive, if you need it there are a range of Apps that can help you to limit your social media use or time on your phone.
Making time to connect is an important strategy for managing your wellbeing, especially during times of high stress.
Did you know that there are activities and challenges designed to inspire and help you to re-connect with the positive energies in your life available in the Accuro Health Hub?
HealthHub is our free wellbeing programme for all Accuro members, their friends and families. In fact, we are the only health insurer to offer a free programme to our membership.
HealthHub has recipes, activities, articles, special offers and more to support you to stay healthy and well.
Find out more and register here.