As the world starts to slowly open up again, I am sure we are all looking forward to spending time with other people, whether this is with loved ones or simple human interactions we have been missing out on. Whilst we may have taken this for granted before, we are entering an exciting time where we really appreciate connecting with others. Technology has been a great help in creating a support network and sense of community during the hard months of lockdown, but as it becomes safe for us to do so, it should be used to enhance our human connections rather than replace them.
A study done by the University of Michigan found that a lack of human connection can be more harmful to your health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. Not only does human connection benefit our physical health but also our mental health. Think about your friends and how you feel around them. Great friends will give you a boost in confidence, a sense of belonging, a good laugh which helps reduce stress and a shoulder to cry on, leaving you feeling heard and validated. A study conducted at a free health clinic in Buffalo, New York found that respondents with insufficient perceived social support were the most likely to suffer from mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. The CDC stated that “symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased considerably in the United States during April–June of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019”. This highlights the impact that the people around us have on our happiness, and so while the past year has been tough for all, this can leave us hopeful about the increasing connections we make.
This doesn’t mean that if you are naturally introverted or shy that you need to stretch yourself past what you are comfortable with. Human connection and the amount each person needs to be happy and health varies and looks different for each person. If you are unsure as to how to increase the amount of connections you make you could try joining clubs or doing some volunteering. Even if these are online at the moment, this leaves open the opportunity to meet more new people when it is safer to do so.
I have personally been very lucky to be in New Zealand since December 2020 so I have been able to experience a more normal reality. I moved here by myself meaning I had to make brand new friends, and I am glad to say that they are some of the best people I’ve ever met. Something as simple as going to a cafe in the morning left me having interesting conversations with people I would have never otherwise come across. I have learnt so much from the people around me as we all come from very different backgrounds and from all over the world. Creating new connections has helped build my confidence whilst also gaining new perspectives, helping me discover new ways of living and thinking. Without stepping out of my comfort zone I wouldn’t have been able to benefit from all these new interactions. Meeting new people with different experiences helps you understand what is unknown to you and therefore shapes your acceptance as you have more of an insight into others struggles and passions. Acceptance and unity brings us together, creating a more supportive community, something we can all benefit from.
In summary, experiencing human connection can make all the difference to your happiness. It's not all about making brand new friends, it could be a short but interesting conversation with your cashier or a kindness done for a stranger on the bus. Let us appreciate this all the more after this hard time.
- Manon Toulemonde