Meaningful connection

Investing in connection with other people might be very important but often overlooked in our efforts to better mental wellbeing.

Particularly now after 2 years of global pandemic, we are given insight into how (the experience of ) social isolation can impacts us and how it increases our stress levels, and even how well we are able to lower our stress levels.

Meaningful connections
First of all we’d like to mention; there is no one ‘amount’ of connections one needs for ‘best outcomes’. Most important determinant is the quality of connection, meeting your individual needs.

Social connection is defined by the difference between two polars; do we experience trust and openness in a relationship, versus do we feel the relationship is driven by conflict, rejection or resentment.
Positive and meaningful connections make us feel secure and able to present vulnerable with the other person.

Difficulties to connection
Social disconnection shows when we feel anxious, at risk of being hurt. Inevertibaly this means that when we experience prolonged conlfict and are unable to access the supports we need, we will experience poor mental health. This often brings dualism; poor mental health can lead to difficulty connecting and maintaining relationships – poor connections become a downward spiral for mental health.

keeping the score on connection is often quite a challenge, but what helps to keep in mind is to be aware of any notice of the lacking; when we want to connect with people but for some reason we are not able to. Connection is missing and not meeting our needs.

Most of us live a life of long working hours, not being connected anymore to our places of childhood we grew up in. Technology and devices make a false perception of connection but actually not really supporting the case. Additionally, we can find it difficult to spend our time in a way that we feel quality connection is made.

Contributors to meaningful connection
A first step can be to (re)prioritise real social connection. Technology and social media are an amazing way of staying in touch with others, where in past times when we move away from our networks we would have to wait weeks for a letter to return or even be prepared to loose that connection at all. Though long-term this can not replace the real time social interactions.

When we do connect, it is important to be mindful to build on uninterrupted and undistracted time together with the other person. Doing meaningful activities with shared interests, or having meaningful conversations can be a way to re-establish social connection.

Focus on the idea that every individual is able to offer what they can contribute to the relationship, and therefore it is okay to focus on your own needs when feeling lonely. Your confidence will grow to engage with others when you shift this focus.

Build trust and support by offering help when you can, check in with the other person when you’re aware they’re going through some challenges.

Key actions

Schedule in. If you struggle with prioritising or often catch yourself 'forgetting' to stay in touch; simply plan a weekly phone call, a coffee date. Especially when you're busy you will need these moments of connection to keep going!
Reflect. What is your need in socialising and connection? How proactive are you in inversting in connection? What are your fears or barriers?
Mindfulness. When spending time with others, be mindful you have full attention, limiting the risks of distractions. 

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