Feeling Socially Connected Might Be More Important Than You Think
By: Irina Todorov, MD • Posted on June 09, 2022
A study published in 2010, concluded that there is a 50% increased likelihood of survival for participants with stronger social relationships. The lack of human connection can be as harmful to your health as obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption and physical activity.¹
What does it means to be socially connected?
In general, being socially connected is defined as feeling close and connected to others. It involves feeling loved, cared for and valued. When you share a deep level of interaction or communication with someone, you feel supported to be your true self no matter what. Having a few meaningful relationships is much more valuable and beneficial to your health than having many superficial acquaintances.
Tips to build a meaningful relationship
Loneliness is not simply being alone – you can be lonely while living in a big city, working in a large company or being married. Developing a deep connection requires a curiosity and attitude of service. Intention and action are key components of building meaningful relationships. Here are some skills that might help you develop new or deepen existent relationships:
- Listen attentively without interruptions
- Be fully present at the conversation and remove distractions like answering e-mails, phone messages or watching TV
- Seek to understand what is important for the other person and how you can help them grow and achieve what is important for them
- Do things together – the best relationships grow out of shared experiences
Expand your circle of friends
- Challenge yourself to try new activities like taking a cooking class, joining an interest group or helping organize a community or neighborhood event
- Sign up for group physical activities like a dance class, group exercise or hiking group
- Diversify the group of people you meet on a regular basis
Volunteer for a cause that you believe in
In a 4-year-long study, participants who volunteered 100 or more hours per year versus 0 hours per year had a reduced risk of mortality. In addition, they had higher scores for physical activity, positive affect, optimism and purpose in life, and lower scores on presence of depressive symptoms, hopelessness, loneliness and physical functioning limitations.²
Choose a cause that is meaningful to you and find a volunteer opportunity that you believe will make a real difference in someone’s life.
Use technology for your advantage not disadvantage
Don’t allow physical distance prevent you from keeping up with meaningful connections that you already have. Here are some ways I keep connected with my family and friends who live all over the world via free video platforms like Skype, Facetime or WhatsUp:
- Have dinner together with a topic discussion
- Cook with Mom
- Include relatives at birthday parties and holiday celebrations
- Play a game of chess
- Help with homework or a task
Be Strong, Be Healthy, Be in Charge!
- Irina Todorov, MD
- Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB. Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS Med. 2010 Jul
- Kim ES,Volunteering and Subsequent Health and Well-Being in Older Adults: An Outcome-Wide Longitudinal Approach. Am J Prev Med. 2020 Aug;
About Irina Todorov, MD
Irina Todorov, MD, ABFM, ABOIM, is a Family Medicine physician who believes that we all should strive to achieve optimal physical, social, and mental well-being. She looks for underlying causes of disease and addresses them with nutrition optimization, exercise therapies, herbs and supplements. In addition, she will work with you to address stress, sleep and motivation to change.
Dr. Todorov is board certified in both Family Medicine and Integrative Medicine and practiced for 7 years in Europe prior to moving to the USA. She has additional training in Herbal Medicine, manual therapies, mind/body techniques, and aromatherapy which are used to create a unique plan for each individual patient that is in alignment with the patient’s beliefs and preferences. She treats children, adolescents and adults. Languages include English and Bulgarian.
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