Yesterday, I shared about the importance of a strong connection with ourselves. Equally important is the connection we have with others in our lives. Having positive relationships helps us to feel supported, loved and like we belong which is extremely important for our wellbeing. Not only that, strong social connections improve your physical and mental health, reduce stress and help you to live a longer and healthier life.
Nurturing your relationships is therefore a key part of any journey to better wellness. Remember- no man (or woman) is an island!
Connecting with others
Nurturing your relationships isn’t necessarily about having lots of friends or an extreme social life. You don’t need to become an extrovert or a social butterfly to feel like you have a strong social network. Connecting with others can come in many different forms including:
- Friends and family
- Romantic relationships
- Work or school colleagues
- Sports teams or hobby groups
- Neighbors, community groups
- Religious community
Having a variety of social connections helps us to feel like we are part of a community. I’m sure you can all appreciate the importance of these connections after passing nearly two years of COVID restrictions. We have all spent more time alone or only with our closest ones during this period and many of our other connections have been cut off or extremely limited.
Personally, I moved abroad last year which meant leaving my friends and job behind. I also couldn’t take part in the hobbies I enjoy which dramatically changed my social life! I definitely realised the importance of having those strong social connections to help me feeling grounded. So this year I am determined to continue working on making new connections and strengthening the relationships I have made.
If you have been feeling alone or like you don’t belong in recent months, definitely try to implement some of the suggestions from this post.
How to feel more connected
- Make space for others
It’s so easy these days to fill all of our time with work, daily chores, self-care plus TV and social media that we don’t have time for building our relationships. I know I have surely been guilty of this in the past! But strengthening connections with others takes time and energy. We are all so busy and life can be exhausting that we forget to make that phone call or arrange a meeting with friends. Equally at home, there are always dishes to be washed, clothes to be cleaned or meals to be prepared meaning that we don’t get as much quality time with our families and partners. But we have to be willing to put in the effort and prioritise time with loved ones. Let go of the need to do everything and realise that sometimes slowing down and creating space for others in your life is what is really important.
- Put yourself out there
When it comes to making new social connections, there is no short cut. You simply have to put yourself out there! Don’t be afraid the awkwardness or worry about what people will think. Be ready to give invites and to say yes if people you meet invite you to do things. Sometimes this can feel difficult, especially if you have been spending more time than usual alone. But often all it takes is to get the ball rolling and find that social momentum. Why not try organising a local event such as a coffee morning, a hike or a trip to the theatre or cinema. Even if you don’t see yourself as an organiser, you might have a hidden talent! If this feels really uncomfortable, you can always find a local group or club and join one of their meetups. Social media is especially helpful for this and has been a lifesaver for me here in Athens!
- Be open-minded
This one might seem obvious but it can be a barrier to going out and meeting others. If you are afraid you won’t meet people just like you or that you won’t fit in, you might not feel like putting yourself out there. But remember that not every person you meet has to become your best friend. It’s ok to go out and meet people with no expectations. You can simply enjoy being with other people and be curious about who their lives. Approaching people with an open mind and without making assumptions means you have many more options when it comes to making new connections. You never know, you might learn something unexpected or have an interesting story to tell! These days, we tend to over identify with our beliefs to the point that we judge others or can’t connect with them if they don’t think like we do. But life is much more fun when we embrace the variety of humanity and don’t limit our connections by age, gender, nationality, religion etc!
- Face to face is best
It is amazing that we have so many options these days to connect with others. I don’t know what we would have done without video calls and zoom meetings during the pandemic! But this trend towards replacing “real” connections with virtual ones began way before the social distancing measures and have only been accelerated in the last couple of years. We prefer to text or email instead of calling or seeing someone face to face. We chat in groups on social media and never attend any of the in-person meetups. We can follow along with exercise classes online, work remotely and do our shopping online which means we never actually have to see anyone. These are all great and convenient options for when we need them but nothing beats the real thing! If you feel like you are missing some of these connections, try going out of your way to see people face to face, even if it takes more time or effort to do so.
Today’s challenge: Reflect on your connections
For today’s challenge I want you to grab your notepad or journal and map out your social connections. Include all the example I mentioned above plus any extras you can think of. Then rate your feelings of connection on a scale of 1-10. If you score 7 or below, ask yourself what you need to increase your rating. How can you make new connections or strengthen the connections you do have?
Write 1-3 commitments that you can make to yourself to improve your feelings of connectedness, whether it is to call a friend each week, arrange a weekly date night with your partner, organise a family dinner or join a community group. Create the space in your schedule and plan it in so that you don’t forget!
Over to you…
- Comment: What is one thing you can do this week to improve your connection with others?
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