The Health Benefits of Human Connection
We are built for connection, yet loneliness is on the rise. Whether you’re building relationships with friends, family, pets, or a romantic partner, the health benefits of developing a close community is well-researched. In this blog, we look at the health benefits of finding closeness with others and the health concerns of loneliness.
We’re wired for connection.
The human body has several responsive systems that produce hormones when we experience physical and mental intimacy. When we cuddle, hug, or smooch, our bodies release hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin which make us feel happy and relaxed. Those hormones help stave off depression and anxiety and can help us manage stress and build emotional resilience.
Connection, especially physical contact, also boosts our immune system, even at a distance. When we feel connected to our community, our overall health is much higher; in fact, research suggests that forming bonds is a major predictor of health outcomes and longevity. The good news is that small acts of kindness and connection have a significant positive impact on our feelings of isolation.
Loneliness can impact your health.
Concerns about loneliness are getting considerably more research as of late –– and for good reasons. Loneliness can have serious effects on our health and well-being. Isolation and a lack of community can magnify chronic stress, cause high blood pressure, and make us more susceptible to illness.
After the pandemic, many of us have adjusted our lives to accommodate isolation and lockdowns. With an uptick in people working from home or in a hybrid role, we often forget to get healthy socialization in our daily lives. Building and maintaining a healthy and supportive network of friends, coworkers, family, and partners are an integral part of our health and well-being.
There are so many ways to build a supportive network!
While it can feel daunting, prioritizing community is a necessity. If you shy away from social events, try to find spaces where you can feel comfortable meeting new people – whether that’s online or in a calm environment like a beginner ceramics class or by volunteering at the local animal shelter. If you’re a social butterfly, try to focus on building deeper relationships that are emotionally nourishing by focusing on one-to-one meetups or smaller groups in an intimate setting (like hosting a dinner party).
Ways to build and experience connection:
One of the benefits of technology is the ability to access our friends and family when we are physically apart. Video calling, texting, or sending voice memos are little ways we can maintain our community from anywhere in the world. Moreover, seeing people we care about, even when it’s online, still releases beneficial hormones.
Booking in for a massage can help you unwind and reduce stress. While this isn’t building a deep connection, skin-to-skin contact can ease feelings of isolation and boost our endorphins. Massage also helps increase circulation and reduce stress.
- Group exercise or class
Joining a recreational league or adult fitness group can help you build connections with new people in a setting. Making friends as an adult can be challenging, but an activity can be a great way to build new bonds. Try taking a class on something you find interesting. There are classes in ceramics, painting, woodworking, metal smithing and more! Classes are a great way to make new friends in an environment where everyone is a beginner.
- Therapy or group therapy
Learning how to navigate new connections can be difficult, but finding a therapist can help you build a safe environment free from judgment while you build new social connections.
- Being kind to others
When we feel supported by the world around us, that helps us feel grounded and connected; kindness is a beacon to others that they are seen and worthy of care.
- Adopt a pet
Pets can have a significant impact on our well-being. If you feel ready to adopt a pet, visit your local animal shelter. Creating bonds extends beyond other human beings –– for some, pets are an easier and safer way to feel connected and give care.
Working in service of others can help us feel connection and meaning. Whether you spend time at the animal shelter, a harm reduction centre, or reading at the local library, finding a place that aligns with your values and interests and helps you build strong connections.
This February, make space to connect.
It can feel scary to be vulnerable with others, especially when building new friendships or connections. As we age, meeting new friends and starting new relationships can be challenging. Just know that many people are experiencing the same doubt and hesitations as you are. The more opportunities we give ourselves, the easier it can be to find and nurture connections. Having a strong support system is an important part of our health and well-being, so this February, we hope you find new ways to nourish your very human need for connection.