Breathing Space August 2022

by Dan Comer

A Sense of Social Connectedness
How connected do you feel? Much has been said about practices for cultivating a sense of social connectedness. Decades of psychology research have taught us that this is a key to happiness.

That’s what Harvard’s Study of Adult Development discovered by following the lives of hundreds of people over eighty years, from the time they were teenagers all the way into their nineties. The massive longitudinal study revealed that the people who ended up happiest were the ones who really leaned into good relationships with family, friends, and community. Close relationships were better predictors of long and pleasant lives than money, IQ, or fame!

Other studies have found evidence that social connections boost not only our mental health but also our physical health, helping to combat everything from memory loss to fatal heart attacks.

There are many ways to make you feel connected to others. A great option is to perform an act of kindness—like donating to charity or volunteering to read to a child or an older person online.

Here are some additional thoughts and ideas:

  • Maintain contact with existing friends and reconnect with your old friends. Make an effort to carve out time to be with the people you care about.
  • Remember that it’s not the quantity of social relationships but the quality that really matters.
  • If you use social media, use it as a way station; use Facebook so that you can meet up somewhere. If it’s used as a destination, as a place to withdraw socially and interact as a nonauthentic self, it can deepen your sense of loneliness and isolation.
  • One of the best ways to forge and maintain friendships is through built-in regularity—something you can plan around that is always on the schedule at least twice a month. Examples are perhaps meeting with your support group on a regular basis, gathering around the table to play games, or planning an activity with family or friends that requires preparation and training together, such as a challenging hike.

So go forth and connect!