Connecting with others

Connecting with others

Guest blogger: Rebecca Gewurtz

Humans have a basic need to connect with others. This is not a recent finding – it is a central component of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, proposed in the 1940’s, which suggests that belonging to a group and feeling loved is akin to our need for food and shelter. More recent work has confirmed that having strong social connections and connecting with others is a key component of healthy development and critical for healthy aging. As an example, Dr. John Cacioppo, a distinguished professor of psychology and director of the University of Chicago Centre for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, gave a TED talk on the lethality of loneliness, highlighting that loneliness impacts our brain, and is a risk factor for morbidity and mortality. The impact of loneliness on health and well-being is complicated; for example, loneliness has been associated with poorer sleep, more difficulties managing stressors, and less enjoyment of other activities.

The Do-Live-Well framework highlights the importance of connecting with others and can be used to prompt reflection about the quantity and quality of social connections that can support health and wellbeing. This “dosage” varies between individuals and changes overtime. For example, I currently live in a very busy household. At times, I often feel I just need a moment to myself for quiet reflection. However, I also need to build in time to occasionally connect with others beyond my household for leisure and relaxation. I also recall a time several years ago, when I lived in a much quieter household. I was working at home on my PhD while my husband was away on business. After a few days alone with almost no social contact, I realized that I was not feeling like myself. I had a desperate need to connect and online social media would not suffice!

Thinking about the need to connect with others might be particularly relevant to those who have experienced recent changes in their living arrangements – Young adults who are living on their own for the first time, new parents, empty nesters, or individuals who have recently lost a spouse/partner might be particularly vulnerable to isolation and loneliness.

What do you think? How do you find a balance between connecting with others and solitary activities? Have you experienced negative health and wellness outcomes as a result of isolation or loneliness? Join the conversation; we look forward to hearing what you think!