Social connection is something we all need — and crave when we don’t get it. We look at the effects of loneliness and share some ways to help rebuild social connection.
The COVID pandemic brought into sharp focus the simple need for human interaction and how we can take it for granted. At the end of the day, people need people to connect and make sense of their lives.
We humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.
While humans are social beings, in our increasingly digital world, many people are feeling lonely and socially disconnected.
In fact, loneliness is now understood to be an important social, health and economic problem. It affects at least one in four Australians aged 12 to 89, costs the Australian government around $2.7 billion a year, and can have wide-ranging and long-term mental and physical effects.1
COVID, remote work, online communications and a return to busy lives have made it harder to build trust and social connection. It’s even more challenging for people who were already isolated or who experienced a lack of care when most vulnerable.1
Coming together to connect - today
Stronger social connection can offer many mental health benefits including increased feelings of happiness, purpose and belonging, as well as improving self-esteem and self-worth.2
It’s important to understand that there are simple, everyday things that can help reduce feelings of loneliness, and rebuild confidence and connection. A good first step is to reach out to a friend or family member you can rely on for support if you’re experiencing feelings of anxiety and depression. Organisations like Beyond Blue can help provide mental health support today.
Direct, face to face communication is usually best. A phone or video call or SMS, can also help kick start a process to build connection.2
Connection often stems from positivity, happiness, and confidence. To create a more positive, growth-focused mindset, it can help to pursue a hobby or carve out time for the things you enjoy most. Enrol in a book club, an art class, or join a sports club or exercise class — whatever it is you’re interested in. Meditation can clear and focus the mind. Seeking out opportunities to volunteer your time or skills to a cause that’s meaningful to you may also help create a sense of purpose and help rebuild connection, within yourself and with other people.
Sometimes all it takes is a conversation to change someone’s life. If you’re worried someone you know or care about might be feeling lonely or withdrawn, here are some tips from the national charity RUOK?™ 3 about how to check in with them:
Learn more from RUOK ™