Humans are social beings by nature. Early humans evolved in tribes and villages that protected and supported one another.
And while our environment has changed since our hunter-gatherer days, that evolutionary tendency survives in the modern world, where humans thrive on social interactions, relationships, and connections with others.
In fact, social connection is so vital to human life that it actually influences our metabolism! That’s right: research shows that having strong social connections correlates with better metabolic health.
This makes our social connections key players in building and strengthening mental health. In this article, we’ll explore the ways social connections affect mental health and offer some fun and easy ways to build and maintain your social community.
The Benefits of Social Connections for Mental Health
This is, in part, because of the multifaceted ways social connections impact mental health, including:
- Providing a sense of belonging: Humans have a deep-seated need for social belonging. When we feel like we belong to a group or community, we experience a sense of security and validation. This can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
- Providing emotional support: Having strong social connections means having people to turn to in times of emotional distress. Being able to confide in someone who understands and supports you can be a powerful tool in coping with stress and anxiety.
- Providing a sense of purpose: When we have strong social connections, we are more likely to feel like we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. This can help us feel more motivated and provide a sense of purpose in life.
- Improving self-esteem: When we have relationships with people who respect and support us, we are more likely to feel good about ourselves. Social connections can provide positive feedback, which can boost self-esteem and overall confidence.
- Increasing resilience: Having a strong support network can help you bounce back from difficult experiences. By having trustworthy people around you, you’re more likely to seek out help during hard times, which can help you get through that season of life and gradually increase your resilience in the face of adversity.
Fun and Easy Ways to Build and Maintain Social Connections
While it can be intimidating to create a new social group (especially as an adult), building and maintaining social connections doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are 8 fun and simple ways to get you started building and strengthening social connections:
- Host a gathering. This could be an event at your home, like a dinner party or game night, or it could be at a public place, like an Escape Room, skating rink, or a mini golf location. Inviting friends, family, and acquaintances to your gathering can help you strengthen existing connections and even form new ones.
- Attend a local event. Check out local events in your area, such as concerts, art shows, farmer’s markets, or community festivals. You can bring a friend with you or go solo. Either way, attending something local is a great way to meet new people and explore all your community has to offer.
- Volunteer for a cause you care about. Volunteering is an excellent way to give back to your community and meet like-minded individuals who share similar values.
- Join a club or group based on your interests or hobbies. This is a great way to meet new people who share similar passions.
- Take a group class. Signing up for a group class (fitness, painting, hiking, etc.) or another other group activity can be an easy way to seek out new social connections and connect with individuals who share similar interests, goals, and/or hobbies.
- Attend a support group. Support groups provide a safe and supportive environment to connect with others, share experiences, and offer and receive support.
- Connect with old friends. Use social media or email to stay in touch and schedule a catch-up call or coffee date with old friends whose relationships you value.
- Attend a workshop or conference related to your field or interests. These events provide an opportunity to network with professionals and like-minded individuals and form new social connections.
And those are just some starting ideas!
No matter how you go about it, it’s important to note that building and maintaining social connections takes time and effort. It can be overwhelming if you do too much at once. Start by setting small goals for yourself, such as attending a social event once a month, and gradually increase your involvement in activities over time as you discover the ones you like best.
By putting yourself out there and being open to new experiences, you can form meaningful social connections that can support both your mental and metabolic well-being.
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Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. You should consult with your healthcare provider before starting any treatments for any medical conditions.
Margaret Hoffman is a writer, editor, and script coordinator. She’s written for various online companies (Revero and Mental Floss) as well as for television (with Netflix, Sesame Workshop, Nickelodeon, Hellosaurus, and Sutoscience). She uses various metabolic strategies to help with her anxiety and loves helping people understand big ideas in fun and easy-to-understand ways.