Stay Connected, Stay Healthy
You see a friend suffering a loss, or your favorite aunt stops by – what’s your first instinct? But, oh wait, no hugs allowed. Yet that’s how we show support, compassion and love. So what happens when we can’t express ourselves in our usual, natural way?
Nicola Finley, MD, integrative physician at Canyon Ranch Tucson, says that physical distancing during the coronavirus pandemic is vital to your health – and social connection is key to overall wellness.
These are the 10 things Dr. Finley wants you to know about connectedness.
1. Social connectedness refers to the overall quantity and quality of relationships – and it’s different for everyone
We each fall somewhere on the spectrum of being extroverted or introverted, and a lot depends on personality, age, gender and culture. However we create it, social connection gives us a sense of belonging, knowing that people are there for us and that we’re there for them. It builds trust, value and meaning within our social network.
2. Perceived social isolation is different from being alone
Someone might have people all around them and still feel socially isolated. Another person could be alone yet not feel socially isolated. The concern is about having the perception of feeling socially isolated and disconnected.
3. Feeling social isolation is a risk factor for heart disease
According to the American Heart Association, social isolation is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, similar to risks such as family history, diabetes, high cholesterol and smoking.
4. People who feel socially connected live longer.
A study of over 300,000 people found a 50% increased likelihood of survival for individuals with strong social relationships.
5. Nurturing social connections brings emotional benefits
Having more social support has an impact on mood and can help in managing depression or anxiety. Social connection allows you to both receive and give support.
6. Being connected to others builds resiliency for managing psychological stress
Social connections could be described as creating a buffer against stress.
7. Social connectedness can positively impact our behaviors
You might ride bikes with friends, for instance, or start eating better because your sweetheart does. Research also shows that having social support and encouragement is associated with sticking to medical management plans, seeking help and keeping routine medical appointments.
8. Build your social network and foster connections
Harness the strength of social ties by building a positive network. You can connect virtually or in person, separated by just six feet. Think about the size of your network. Having a larger network of positive people can offer more support. Think about who’s in your network – children, parents, spouse, close relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues. Having wide diversity within a social network has been shown to be beneficial, as different people offer varying types of support. And the more often you interact with your network, the more support and trust.
9. Connect with nature or animals
Some people get their sense of connection and belonging through nature and animals. Pets can be the source of affection, acceptance and unconditional love – and who doesn’t want that?
10. Reach out for professional help if you feel socially isolated
Even while you may be stuck at home, there are health care and mental health providers available via virtual appointments. Connect with the people and resources who can help you.
Pantell M, Rehkopf, et al. Social Isolation: A Predictor of Mortality Comparable to Traditional Clinical Risk Factors. American Journal of Public Health. November 2013. Vol 103. No 11.
Becofsky K, Shook R, Sui X, et al. The Influence of Source of Social Support and Size of Social Network on All-Cause Mortality. Mayo Clin Proc. 2015 July; 90(7): 895–902. Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB (2010) Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-Analytic Review