I is for Interconnection - the importance of social wellbeing
Interconnection is defined as how two or more things or people are closely connected or how they relate to each other and it is one of the pillars of the Genesis Health and Wellbeing model.
Humans are social creatures with fundamental needs to belong and be connected with other human beings. We are 'herd or pack animals' that operate as one part of an intricately woven community that includes our friends, family, workplace or other cultural or community groups.
It is important when looking at ways to improve our health and wellbeing that we look beyond our physical needs, like diet, sleep and exercise, to also consider our emotional and social needs.
Interconnection, or lack of it, can impact how we experience life, our identity, beliefs, values and sense of being part of something greater than ourselves. Studies have shown that extreme loneliness can increase a person's chances of premature death by 14%, which is double the impact of obesity!
Social isolation can:
- Disrupt our sleep
- Elevate blood pressure
- Increase the rise in the stress hormone cortisol
- Alter gene expression in immune cells
- Increase depression
Statistically, people with good social connections are more likely to be healthier and live longer. But before you get too excited by the number of Facebook friends or Instagram followers you have and go thinking you're set to live a long and healthy life, remember that good social connection in this context is about having intimate relationships i.e. someone in your life that affirms who you are; face to face contacts that are mutually rewarding; and feeling that you are part of a group e.g. family or cultural group.
While interconnection is very much about how we connect with other people, this pillar of the Genesis Health and Wellbeing model also considers how we interact with our environment and the synergy between the other 6 pillars of the model. Each pillar is an important component of the model, however, the power of a holistic health and wellbeing program is in its synergistic effects; as Aristotle is quoted as saying "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts".
There are things we can all do to improve our sense of interconnection:
- Being approachable and open to connecting with others is a good start. When you are shy it can be hard to make eye contact or speak to people you don't know, but remember that others often feel this way and sometimes you just have to put yourself out there.
- Being a good listener helps - people like to be heard and listened to. We can make wonderful connections with others when we take the time to get to know them and find common interests.
- Do things that you enjoy doing and you will start to build connections with like-minded people. Join a club, follow a team, take a class, or take up a hobby or a craft and become an active member of that community.
- Make time to meet up with those people that are close to you. In our increasingly busy worlds, we need to actively make time to spend quality time with our loved ones or dear friends.
- Don't forget that you can make wonderful connections with the people you spend a considerable amount of time with at work. Take time out to have lunch together or arrange to meet up after work for a walk or a nice dinner.
If you think that your social wellbeing could be affecting your health, I strongly suggest you seek help from a qualified health practitioner e.g. your GP, a counsellor or psychologist. I have some wonderful contacts in these professions and would be more than happy to share their details or refer you to them.