Why relationships and social connections matter for health and wellbeing

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WHY positive relationships and Being socially connected matter for your Health + wellbeing.

by Joyce Chong

 

When it comes to wellbeing and health we tend to focus on how we work on our physical health for better physical health outcomes, and what we do to change our mindset for better psychological wellbeing. Alas, focusing on just these two aspects misses what the founder of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, views as a central tenet of wellbeing. Specifically, Seligman suggests that positive relationships are a key ingredient when it comes to boosting our wellbeing and resilience (learn more Seligman's PERMA model of resilience and wellbeing here).

Overall, social connectedness and positive relationships point to benefits such as better physical health, a longer life spanbetter mental health (particularly when it comes to depression) and better cognitive functioning (notably dementia) compared to those who are lonely.


Relationships, social connectedness, and our health - which mechanisms matter?

So what exactly do relationships and social connectedness do to maintain our health and wellbeing? From an intuitive perspective, consider: 

  • When dealing with stressful life situations, knowing that there's someone to lean on for support can decrease the impact of the stressor. In a sense, it feels like we're not shouldering the burden alone.
  • Venting or talking with a friend may mean less reliance on unhelpful coping styles (e.g. excessive alcohol use). It may also mean that your friend helps you to put things into perspective and see things differently.
  • Great times with friends produce positive emotions, which contribute to happiness and life satisfaction.

 

Indeed, studies of social connectedness and loneliness suggest the mechanisms by which relationships with others translate to better outcomes include: [1],[2]

  • Better cardiovascular function (blood pressure during times of stress, HDL cholesterol levels)
  • Lowered cortisol levels and enhanced oxytocin levels
  • Enhancing immune function
  • Improved health behaviours and choices

The findings are clear - being socially connected benefits our health and wellbeing!


how to improve your relationships and social connectedness

The case for boosting our relationships is a solid one, but given that we all lead busy lives where can we find the time to nurture these relationships? Well - over our next few blog posts we’ll look at some practical tips on improving relationships, including:

  1. 4 ways to build better romantic relationships
  2. How to strengthen the parent-child relationship
  3. How psychological flexibility improves your relationship

Be sure to check in soon! And, if there’s conflict and tension in your relationships why not check out our Resource Library Tip Sheet on How to get unstuck from conflict in relationships? Written by our clinical psychologist Annie Malcolm, here’s a sneak peek below, and you can sign up for it (and access to all of our other Tip Sheets on wellbeing, mental health, and performance in our Resource Library).

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Grab our tip sheet and you'll also get access to our Resource Library filled with even more tips on wellbeing, mental health, and performance. You'll also receive news and updates at The Skill Collective. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by contacting us. For more information please read our Privacy Policy and Terms + Conditions.


Want more? You can connect with The Skill Collective in the following ways:

  • Contact us to make an individual appointment to get started on making changes.
  • Get access to our FREE resource library filled with exclusive tip-sheets on Wellbeing, Mental Health, and Performance that you won't find here on the blog
  • Join our FREE 14-day Wellbeing Challenge. Tailored for busy lives we're talking wellbeing tips for better body, mind, and heart in just 15 minutes a day, delivered straight to your inbox.


REFERENCES

[1] Uchino, B.N. (2006). Social support and health: A review of physiological processes potentially underlying links to disease outcomes. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 29, 377-387. DOI: 10.1007/s10865-006-9056-5

[2] Hawkley, L.C., & Cacioppo, J.T. (2013). Loneliness matters: A theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms. Annals of Behavioural Medicine, 40, 1-14. doi:10.1007/s12160-010-9210-8