If you consider yourself a naturally social person, then you’re probably not shocked to hear that spending time with friends and family is proven to make you happier. But even if you’re introverted and prefer spending time by yourself, you may be surprised to learn that you will be happier to spend time with others, too!
Research into the impact of social behavior on health and longevity has been going on for over 50 years, with study after study concluding that humans are social creatures who require connections with other humans in order to thrive. Social connections, such as friendships, relationships with family members and closeness to community, are so closely related to well-being and personal happiness the two can practically be equated.
In fact, a lack of social connection is a greater overall health risk than smoking! Being lonely impacts your immune system as well as your susceptibility to anxiety, depression and antisocial behaviors. A review of 148 studies found that people with strong social relationships have a 50% lower risk of mortality.
Here’s what you need to know about social connections and their tie to happiness:
Connection is contagious:
Harvard researchers have looked into the social connection ramifications within friendship networks and found positive influence contagious in ways even those experiencing the effects often did not recognize. Love, altruism and happiness can all be spread through solid human connections. While deep connections seem to be the most beneficial, even more casual connections can still create positive effects when those connections are pro-social.
Connection is about perception:
Just as you can feel lonely in a crowd or all alone in spite of a large circle of family and friends, your connectedness to others is less about what you do and more about how you view those relationships. Taking the time to feel grateful for the people in your life actually deepens those bonds, whether it changes any of the outward behavior between you or not.
Connections can be cultivated:
Even introverts can build and optimize connections to others. In today’s technological world, it’s easier than ever to “find your tribe,” whether it be in person or through a digital medium. Social media makes it easier to be connected to friends all the time. The great news is that all positive connections have health and happiness benefits, so participating in any form of positive social interaction is building up your so-called connection bank, and the more you connect, the happier you’ll feel and the more likely you’ll be to build even more connections.
Taking time out of your busy schedule to reconnect with friends, family and your community can be the healthy pick-me-up you need! Looking for ways to build up your current connections or to make news ones? Contact a counselor through your EFR Employee Assistance Program. Visit efr.org/myeap to access today!