The link between social connection and well-being

Most companies will allocate ‘onboarding buddies’ for new hires who help them to settle into their new environment. Research suggests that having teammates support a new starter can positively impact employee well-being and boost productivity in the workplace. Similarly, psychological research suggests that stable, healthy friendships are crucial for our personal well-being and longevity. Yet, many of us struggle to find social connections in our personal lives that we can go to for advice and support, or may find it difficult to form or maintain high-quality friendships and relationships.

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A 2018 UK Biobank study with 480,000 UK residents showed an insight into the impact of loneliness. People who lacked quality friendships, romantic partnerships, or other support networks had an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and premature death.

Social connection can serve us well in life as a protection to how we may respond to stress. Research suggests that people with strong social connections are 50% more likely to live longer, and 32% have a lower risk of dying from heart disease. Friendship can support well-being, reduce feelings of loneliness, increase a sense of belonging, and foster a support network during challenging times. 

Blood pressure is lower when people talk about supportive networks in their lives rather than ambivalent relationships. Yet, for the most part, it can be difficult for some to cut ties with unhealthy relationships or too easy to find barriers that prevent us from forming new ones.

So, how can we start to build ourselves a safe, supportive environment to thrive?

I have listed four ideas below that could be your first step forward to building connections with others.


4 ways to build social connections

Join a local social, event or sports club

For some, the idea of going out and socialising can feel difficult. Our busy lives or social anxiety may prevent this from happening, or we may have no idea where to start, especially with a much more virtual world than ever before.

Joining a club or social network could help form new friendships and connections. Is this too far out of your comfort zone? Try and find a family member or friend who can join you for the first time, or search for live online connections, book clubs or social groups to begin with to help build your confidence. 

Journaling

Reflecting on our previous or current relationships can be a great start to understanding the types of friendships and relationships that have or haven't served us, and what to look for in new or current connections. It may even help us identify traits or challenges within ourselves that aren't helping us to form healthy relationships. Here are three journaling prompts to get you started.

  • Reflect on a meaningful conversation you had recently with someone close to you. What did you learn about them or yourself?
  • Describe a time when you felt truly understood by someone. What made that interaction special?
  • Write about a disagreement or conflict you had with someone. How did it affect your relationship, how did you respond and what did you learn from it?

Invest in counselling

Investing in counselling can provide numerous benefits such as improved mental health, better coping strategies, enhanced self-awareness, and stronger interpersonal relationships. Choosing a counsellor that you can connect with could be a great way to build a healthy support network in your life, and could help you to explore relationship dynamics, setting new boundaries and building confidence in creating new relationships with others.

The strength of 'weak ties'

It isn't just strong relationships with others that can help with our overall well-being. Work colleagues, or even strangers in the park can boost our mood. Next time you pet a stranger's dog, or make a cup of tea in the office, try asking the person next to you how they are doing today and enjoy the small talk. You might just make a new connection. 


Overall, research suggests that having some healthy social connections in our lives can improve our overall physical and psychological well-being, and with 8 billion people in the world, there are enough ‘buddies’ that can support us in our personal lives for everyone, and implementing these small steps above may help you to understand the right people who could support you in times of need.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Staines-Upon-Thames, Surrey, TW18
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Written by Lauren Bourne, MBACP
Staines-Upon-Thames, Surrey, TW18

Hi! I'm Lauren, founder of The Selfcare Hour. Every person is authentic in their own right - and I believe that given the right conditions and envrionments to thrive, we can all find that 'inner peace' and strength when our worlds are full of disruption.

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