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Social Connection: The Best Thing for Your Health

By Kate Gardner

As a mother of three young children, I value time to myself. But between stealing moments to play on my phone and taking care of my responsibilities, I don't always find much time to connect with others. At times like this, I start to feel isolated and lonely. Ironically, I'm not alone in feeling this way. 

Loneliness

Loneliness is more than just a feeling. Numerous studies have looked at the impact of loneliness on our physical and mental health. Dr. Emma Sepala discusses these findings in "Connectedness & Health: The Science of Social Connection" for The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. Those who report low levels of social connection are more prone to depression, anxiety, and health problems. Some studies have even shown that a lack of social connectedness is harder on your health than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure. 

Unfortunately, social connectedness also seems to be on the decline. In 1984, a study reported that Americans most frequently said they had about three people in which they could confide. In 2004, they asked the same question but this time people reported they had zero people in which they could confide! Loneliness, or low levels of social connectedness, have been linked to higher rates of suicide, as well. 

Benefits

Just as loneliness has been shown to be bad for our health, social connectedness is good for us. Sepala's talk lists many of the benefits. Social connectedness helps our mental health. Those who report more connectedness tend to have lower rates of depression and anxiety, better mood regulation, and more confidence and empathy. It also helps our physical health. Research has shown that it is associated with an increased chance for long life and can help your immune system work better through gene expression.   

Stay Connected 

Increasing your social connectedness doesn't need to be complicated or make your life chaotic. Sepala points out that it isn't the number of people you are connected to, rather it is the quality of the connections you have. 

  • Friends and family - Find time to spend with the people you enjoy the most in life. 

  • Play sports - Whether it's pick-up basketball games at the park or a pickleball tournament, playing group sports with others can increase your sense of social connectedness. 

  • Volunteer - Give back and get connected! Volunteering for something that matters to you can help connect you to your community. 

  • Take up a hobby - Joining a hobby group (or even simply enjoying your hobby with friends) can connect you to others and help you build your skills.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, visit your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Valencia, Calif. 

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