Feeling lonely? How to foster social connection during hard times

Mental Health

by Eric Bilder, CHES®

Jun 15, 2020

We live in unprecedented times. Social distancing guidelines have made it more difficult for loved ones to interact, co-workers to collaborate and friends to gather together. For some, this may lead to feelings of loneliness or isolation. New challenges emerge as we look for ways to stay connected while staying safe.

While you may understand the importance of nurturing social connections, perhaps less known is the how — the practical ways in which to actually cultivate this connectedness.

To begin discovering how to foster a sense of connection in your life, let’s first define what loneliness and social connection mean.

Related: 9 ways to practice self-love for your mental health

What is loneliness?

Loneliness occurs when we are dissatisfied with our levels of connection to others, ultimately leading to a perceived sense of social isolation. In order words, loneliness is subjective; people who view themselves as lonely are more likely to suffer from social isolation and feel less connected to others.

This can have grave consequences on your health. One recent study highlights that high perception of loneliness and social isolation carries health risks similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day!

With loneliness seemingly on the rise, this may paint a grim picture.

Yet, there is hope.

The power of social connection

Similar to loneliness, social connection — or the way in which two or more people are connected — can also be subjective. In fact, an article by Stanford Medicine defines social connection as “the subjective experience of feeling close to and a sense of belongingness to others.”

So, as long as you perceive having a strong social connection with others, you feel connected. This is significant because it points to the fact that feeling connected often comes from within.

This explains the phenomena of feeling alone among a crowd of people, while at the same time feeling a close bond with the few who matter most. We do not necessarily need to interact with a large number of people or participate in a variety of social events to feel connected. It starts from within.

These are hard times, yet you can still build strong social connections in your life. Remembering that connectedness often comes from within can lead to a stronger sense of control, even if life around you seems like it is out of control.

Related: How to talk to your doctor about anxiety

You are ultimately in control of how you feel and if you feel connected, you are! This may sound simple — because it is.

Looking to foster a deeper sense of connection? You can do so by:

  • Showing support: Simply offering to help or expressing that you care about someone close to you can have positive impacts on health for both the giver and recipient.
  • Practicing healthy habits: This may or may not involve interaction with others. Research shows that when we take care of ourselves, we are more likely to reach out and form connections in our lives. Find ways to get active and take care of your body today.
  • Asking for help: Often times, when we do not ask for help, people assume that we are OK even though they are more than willing to help. Do not be afraid to reach out to someone to ask for help or if you just need someone to talk to.

Simply reaching out to someone close to you can work wonders for your internal levels of social connection. Pick up that phone today, write that letter or send that text. You owe it to yourself.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by loneliness and isolation, you don’t have to face it alone. Find mental health support today or get connected with a wellness coach.


About the Author

Eric Bilder, CHES®, is a wellness advisor and certified wellness coach at Baylor Scott & White Health. He received his degree in Health Studies in 2016 and has since been working in the corporate wellness world. Eric is passionate about health and wellness and believes preventive care is a powerful tool to staying productive, active and healthy throughout life. Eric loves the outdoors and in his free time, you can find him hiking or camping. He is an avid believer that with the right mindset and some hard work, anything is possible.

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