Social Connection and Your Health

SummerConnectionsShineNaturalMedicine

Looking for summer fun that will also benefit your health? It may be as simple as spending quality time with your loved ones. We all know that having a good laugh with a dear friend feels good, but it turns out that the sense of support we get from interacting with our social networks also has many wide-ranging health benefits, including:

  • Buffering stress by helping you have a more positive perspective.
  • Helping to limit the intensity and duration of negative moods.
  • Adding to your sense of purpose, meaning, belonging, security and self-worth.
  • Decreasing the risk of catching the common cold.
  • Helping prevent heart attacks and high blood pressure, and improving cancer recovery and wound healing.

(So next time you need an excuse to leave work early on Friday afternoon to hang out with your besties, you can tell your boss it’s “doctor’s orders.”)

You may also want to choose your network wisely. While all social support is beneficial, research shows that connecting with happy people can make you happier. Happiness appears to spread through social networks and emotional states seem to be “contagious.” This means that people who are surrounded by many happy people are more likely to become happy in the future.

So grab a friend, a partner, a family member or even your dog and get outside this summer! Here are some tips for cultivating supportive relationships and creating lasting bonds with your friends and family.

  1. Be you. Showing up authentically in your relationships, speaking your truth and holding space for those you love will increase the sense of connection you feel together.
  2. Make connection a priority. Connecting with someone may be the most important thing you do every day. Don’t let the opportunity to connect get eaten up by deadlines, to-do lists and other pressures.
  3. Keep it simple. Spending time with loved ones doesn’t have to be complicated or involve elaborate plans. Go for a walk, spend time at the beach, cook a meal together, hold hands or cuddle at your favorite park.
  4. Be present. The best present you can give anyone truly in your presence. Turn off your cell phones, tune in to each other and have real experiences together.

We’d love to know your favorite way to connect with the important people in your life. Leave us a comment below and share this article with someone you love.


References:

Butler, E. A., & Sbarra, D. A. (2013). Health, emotion, and relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30(2), 151-154.
Cohen, S. (2004). Social Relationships and Health. American Psychologist, 59(8) 676-684.
Antonovsky, A. (1987). Unraveling the mystery of health: How people manage stress and stay well. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Cohen, S. (2001). Social Relationships and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Emotion, Social Relationships, and Health, 221-242.
Everson-Rose, S. A., & Lewis, T. T. (2005). Psychosocial Factors And Cardiovascular Diseases. Annu. Rev. Public. Health. Annual Review of Public Health, 26(1), 469-500.
Fowler, J. H., & Christakis, N. A. (2008). Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: Longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study. Bmj, 337.

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