top of page
  • Writer's pictureLexi Johnson

The Connection Cure

Updated: Dec 9, 2023

What you can do to fight loneliness and embrace connection


We are facing an epidemic of loneliness and isolation. The good news is that we can all do something about it.


It’s actually something quite simple. And it can...

  • Decrease your risk of heart disease and dementia.

  • Fight depression and anxiety.

  • Instill resilience.

  • Improve the prosperity of your community.

  • Transform your whole health and well-being.


It’s called: Social connection.


"The number and quality of relationships you have with other people."


If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because we have not been respecting human connection as the vital necessity that it is for a healthy life.

If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because we have not been respecting human connection as the vital necessity that it is for a healthy life.



Raising Awareness


This month is Mental Health Awareness Month. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is bringing awareness to our epidemic of loneliness and isolation with his recent advisory and companion web page. Both are full of useful information about the challenges our country faces and the contributing causes of our growing disconnection.


Perhaps most importantly, the advisory includes positive steps we ourselves can take to improve social connection in our communities and everyday lives, as well as actions that other societal stakeholders such as government entities, healthcare professionals, researchers, philanthropists, schools, parents, workplaces, social media and technology companies, and the entertainment industry can take.


More on that below.


Long-term Study: What Makes Us Happy?


Meanwhile, reports from the Harvard Study of Adult Development, the longest running study on well-being, continue to give us invaluable insights on what factors contribute to human happiness. And 80+ years of ongoing research consistently demonstrate that it's relationships and social connection that play the biggest role in determining how happy we are.


The Surgeon General’s advisory on loneliness and the Harvard Study of Adult Development both come to the same important conclusion:


We NEED social connection to thrive.


So prioritize the important relationships in your life like the very air you breathe!


It’s time we take our critical human need for connection seriously as a vital necessity for a healthy life.


It’s time we take our critical human need for connection seriously as a vital necessity for a healthy life.
 

Reach Out

If you're struggling with the pain of loneliness, or if you need help creating healthier relationships, please reach out. Therapy can stimulate growth and healing and improve your overall well-being. We can help you improve your relationships through stronger communication, setting healthy boundaries, and increased awareness of your needs.


 


What You Can Do To Fight Loneliness and Embrace Connection

Recommendations for individuals from the Surgeon General's Advisory

  • Understand the power of social connection and the consequences of social disconnection by learning how the vital components (structure, function, and quality) can impact your relationships, health, and well-being.

  • Invest time in nurturing your relationships through consistent, frequent, and high-quality engagement with others. Take time each day to reach out to a friend or family member.

  • Minimize distraction during conversation to increase the quality of the time you spend with others. For instance, don’t check your phone during meals with friends, important conversations, and family time.

  • Seek out opportunities to serve and support others, either by helping your family, co-workers, friends, or strangers in your community or by participating in community service.

  • Be responsive, supportive, and practice gratitude. As we practice these behaviors, others are more likely to reciprocate, strengthening our social bonds, improving relationship satisfaction, and building social capital.

  • Actively engage with people of different backgrounds and experiences to expand your understanding of and relationships with others, given the benefits associated with diverse connections.

  • Participate in social and community groups such as fitness, religious, hobby, professional, and community service organizations to foster a sense of belonging, meaning, and purpose.

  • Reduce practices that lead to feelings of disconnection from others. These include harmful and excessive social media use, time spent in unhealthy relationships, and disproportionate time in front of screens instead of people.

  • Seek help during times of struggle with loneliness or isolation by reaching out to a family member, friend, counselor, health care provider, or the 988 crisis line.

  • Be open with your health care provider about significant social changes in your life, as this may help them understand potential health impacts and guide them to provide recommendations to mitigate health risks.

  • Make time for civic engagement. This could include being a positive and constructive participant in political discourse and gatherings (e.g., town halls, school board meetings, local government hearings).

  • Reflect the core values of connection in how you approach others in conversation and through the actions you take. Key questions to ask yourself when considering your interactions with others include: How might kindness change this situation? What would it look like to treat others with respect? How can I be of service? How can I reflect my concern for and commitment to others?

Source: United States Department of Health and Human Services, p. 66.

 

The Surgeon General’s Six Pillars to Advance Social Connection


1. Strengthen Social Infrastructure in Local Communities

  • Design the built environment to promote social connection

  • Establish and scale community connection programs

  • Invest in local institutions that bring people together

2. Enact Pro-Connection Public Policies

  • Adopt a "Connection-in-All-Policies" approach

  • Design the built environment to promote social connection

  • Advance policies that minimize harm from disconnection

  • Establish cross-departmental leadership at all levels of government

3. Mobilize the Health Sector

  • Train health care providers

  • Assess and support patients

  • Expand public health surveillance and interventions

4. Reform Digital Environments

  • Require data transparency

  • Establish and implement safety standards

  • Support development of pro-connection technologies

5. Deepen Our Knowledge

  • Develop and coordinate a national research agenda

  • Accelerate research funding

  • Increase public awareness

6. Build a Culture of Connection

  • Cultivate values of kindness, respect, service, and commitment to one another

  • Model connection values in positions of leadership and influence

  • Expand conversation on social connection in schools, workplaces, and communities



Source: United States Department of Health and Human Services, p. 47.

 

References & Resources

  1. United States Department of Health and Human Services. Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community.Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the U.S. Surgeon General; 2023.

  2. Direct link to advisory (pdf): https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-social-connection-advisory.pdf

  3. Link to Surgeon General's social connection page: https://www.hhs.gov/surgeongeneral/priorities/connection/

  4. Harvard Study of Adult Development link: https://www.adultdevelopmentstudy.org

309 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page