Social Connection for Healing

Social connection plays a significant role in promoting healing and overall well-being. When we experience strong social connections, it can lead us to comfort, support, and understanding from others. This sense of belonging and acceptance can have a positive impact on emotional, mental, and even physical health.

Engaging in meaningful social interactions can reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, which are associated with various mental health challenges. Being able to share your thoughts, emotions, and experiences with trusted friends, family members, or support groups can provide a cathartic release and a sense of relief.

The Power of Social Connections

It’s widely recognized in various scientific fields that humans are inherently social creatures, with social bonds playing a crucial role in development, reproduction, and survival. Public health research suggests that anywhere from 40% to more than 80% of health and wellness can be directly or indirectly attributed to social factors.

Social connections can provide a source of encouragement and motivation. When facing difficult times, having a supportive network can boost resilience and provide a sense of hope. Interacting with others who have gone through similar experiences can offer valuable insights, coping strategies, and a feeling of solidarity.

Emotional support is a crucial aspect of social connections that directly impacts longevity. During challenging times, individuals with strong social networks receive empathy, understanding, and encouragement from their loved ones. This emotional support helps reduce stress, anxiety, and feelings of isolation, which are all linked to negative health outcomes. When facing health-related issues, having a network of supportive individuals can contribute to better mental and emotional well-being, which, in turn, positively affects overall health.

The Science of Social Connection 

Interacting with others activates the brain’s reward centres, particularly the release of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, motivation, and reinforcement. Positive social interactions create a sense of reward, encouraging us to seek more of these interactions and creating a positive feedback loop. This cycle creates a self-sustaining loop of well-being, where engaging in social connections continuously reinforces positive feelings and enhances overall mental and emotional health. 

Social interactions also trigger the release of oxytocin, often referred to as the “love hormone.” Oxytocin has been linked to stress reduction, increased feelings of trust, and improved emotional well-being. Social connections can provide a buffer against the negative physical effects of stress, which is known to have harmful effects on the body. The release of oxytocin and other hormones counteract the stress response. This leads to an improved hormonal balance, which helps regulate blood pressure, lower heart rate, and decrease inflammation, all of which contribute to better cardiovascular health and a longer life.

There is statistical evidence to back this up. An analysis of 148 studies on social relationships and mortality found that individuals with stronger social connections had a 50% increased likelihood of survival compared to those with weaker connections. These findings suggest that the influence of social connections on the risk of death is comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality, including smoking and alcohol consumption, and exceeds the influence of risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity. 

The Issue With Social Connection

There is a well-understood evolutionary advantage of social connection. Throughout human evolution, social connections were essential for survival. Our ancestors relied on group cooperation for protection, finding food, fending off predators, and raising offspring. Those who formed strong social bonds had a better chance of survival and passing on their genes, leading to the development of a social brain.

In the modern way of life, particularly in industrialised nations, modern lifestyles are diminishing both the quantity and quality of social connections. Extended families are scattered, people delay marriage and parenthood, and more individuals are living alone, leading to a rise in loneliness. 

This trend is particularly evident in countries like the UK and the US, where surveys indicate increasing loneliness and a decline in close relationships. Social isolation appears to be on the rise, impacting people’s connections and overall well-being.2

Prioritising Connection

It’s important to note that social connections can take various forms, including in-person interactions, phone calls, online communities, and even support animals. The key is to find connections that foster a sense of belonging, empathy, and mutual understanding.

To prioritise social connections more effectively, consider these steps:

Quality Over Quantity: Instead of pursuing a large network of acquaintances, invest time in building deep and meaningful relationships with those that you feel comfortable and positive around. Focus on individuals who truly enrich your life, bring you joy, and reciprocate your efforts.

Communication: There can be various forms of communication that help us maintain connections with people. Whether it’s video calls, voice notes, or in-person interactions, the way that you communicate with people has a huge impact on how beneficial it will be for you and them. Practising active listening, where you listen intently to the other person without thinking of what you want to say next, can deepen the connection and lay the groundwork for a more reciprocal and supportive relationship.

Learn to Say No: It might seem counterintuitive, but learning to set clear boundaries and knowing when to say no to social events is key to prioritising connection. We all have our limit of how much time we can spend socialising before it is time to recharge. Practising self-awareness to identify your capacity for social events helps to prevent overcommitting and burning out. Burnout causes exhaustion and makes it difficult to socialise or find the energy to connect with people. Allocate time for social interactions while ensuring you have time for self-care.

Support Others: For some, this could mean offering help and assistance to friends and family when they need it, and for others, it could involve engagement in community service or volunteer work. Both provide an opportunity to connect with people. Being a reliable source of support for people strengthens relationships and builds a sense of community.



  1. Holt-Lunstad J. Social Connection as a Public Health Issue: The Evidence and a Systemic Framework for Prioritising the “Social” in Social Determinants of Health. Annu Rev Public Health. 2022 Apr 5;43:193-213. doi: 10.1146/annurev-publhealth-052020-110732. Epub 2022 Jan 12. PMID: 35021021.