Universally, there are few nouns with a more miserable association than ‘loneliness’. Over the last 10 years, research has provided us with unending amounts of research on the emotional, mental and physical resilience factors that connectedness brings us as well as the detrimental effects of experiencing loneliness. Dr. Emma Seppala’s Tedx Talk on The Power and Science of Social Connection gives us a great overview of the importance of interpersonal relationships while an impressive longitudinal Harvard-based research study following more than 700 people for more than 75 years had one significant finding: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.
In spite of emerging ways to approximate connectedness through social media, it turns out that there are major differences between ‘real’ human connectedness and social-media driven relationships. This might best be explained by the fact that humans are wired for seeking connectedness and thrive when involved in social relationships that are genuine, interactive and reciprocol. It turns out that this is equally important throughout our lifespan, from younger children’s ability to feel like they are in similarly-aged friendships to seniors looking to remain connected to friends and family (where the health aspects of loneliness are most dangerous and imminent).
So how do we support connectedness and happiness? Altruism, compassion and setting aside time and prioritizing relationships are great starts. Dr. Elizabeth Tillinghast’s article in Time Magazine documents additional benefits of social connectedness as well as the importance of addressing loneliness as a public health risk from childhood through geriatrics.
Our latest Huffington Post submission “Top 10 Parenting Tips“ is available now through Dr. Louise Stanger’s Huffington Post page. Each tip is useful for both clinicians and parents…..if you have additional tips, please send them along!