Human Relationships: Why connecting with others is integral to our social and emotional wellbeing

Human Relationships: Why connecting with others is integral to our social and emotional wellbeing

The importance of human connection, both emotionally and socially is deeply embedded in our nature. Research across various disciplines highlights the critical role that building strong and meaningful relationships has in fostering overall wellbeing, living a high quality of life and extending longevity. Feeling lonely and having little or no human interaction is linked to a higher risk of developing mental health issues, particularly due to the lack of support individuals may face when dealing with stressful or challenging situations and events.

In this article we explore the vital role of relationships in human wellbeing and provide a few tips for cultivating meaningful connections with others.

Social connection and mental health
Studies conducted by the National Institute of Aging consistently show that individuals with robust social networks tend to have better mental health outcomes. One significant aspect of this relationship is the role of social support in buffering against stress. Strong connections provide a psychological safety net, reducing the impact of life's challenges on mental health. Close relationships, characterised by trust and reciprocity, create an environment where individuals feel understood, valued, and supported.

Emotional regulation and connection
Human connection is also integral to emotional regulation. Meaningful relationships provide a platform for sharing and processing emotions, contributing to emotional resilience. When facing adversity, individuals with strong social ties are better equipped to cope with stress and navigate difficult circumstances.

Research published in the journal "Psychological Science" suggests that the presence of a trusted person during times of stress can have a calming effect on the brain. This is attributed to the role of social connection in regulating the body's stress response, including the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. The emotional support derived from meaningful relationships acts as a buffer against the negative impact of stressors.

Physical health benefits
The benefits of human connection extend beyond the realms of mental and emotional wellbeing to impact physical health. Numerous studies have explored the links between social connections and overall health outcomes. The Framingham Heart Study, for instance, found that social relationships have a significant impact on cardiovascular health. Strong social ties were associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

Moreover, the immune system, a cornerstone of physical health, is influenced by social connections. A review published in the "Journal of Social and Personal Relationships" highlights that individuals with diverse social networks tend to have more robust immune function. The mechanisms behind this phenomenon are complex and involve the interplay between social factors, stress reduction, and immune responses.

Longevity and Relationships
The profound impact of human connection on health is further highlighted by research on longevity. A landmark study conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University found that lacking social connections carries an equivalent mortality risk to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Strong social ties, on the other hand, were associated with a 50% increased likelihood of survival.

This connection between relationships and longevity can be attributed to various factors, including the role of social support in encouraging healthy behaviours, the stress-buffering effects of companionship, and the psychological benefits of feeling connected to others.

Tips for cultivating meaningful connections

Tip 1: Actively listen to others, demonstrating genuine interest in their experiences and emotions. Cultivate empathy by seeking to understand and share in the feelings of others.

Tip 2: Focus on the depth and quality of relationships rather than the sheer number of connections. Invest time and effort in building trust and understanding with others.

Tip 3: Foster open and honest communication in relationships by embracing vulnerability and allowing for genuine connections to flourish.

Tip 4: Engage in activities that foster a sense of shared purpose and enjoyment. Participate in group activities or join communities with shared interests.

Tip 5: Try to build connections with individuals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Embrace the richness that comes from varied social interactions and try to stay open-minded and curious about the cultures, experiences and contributions others can bring to your life.

Information sourced from The Wellness Workshop (