con•nec•tion: the act of connecting
con•nect: to become joined
I think we can all grasp the basic understanding of connecting. We connect legos together to build block towers. We connect our phones to a charger in the wall when our battery runs low. We connect the dots when we put pieces of information together to come to a conclusion.
But what about when we’re dealing with other people? That’s more than simply joining us with another, it’s something much deeper. It’s human connection.
Human connection is a person connected to another in a deep bond that’s formed when each person feels seen, heard, and valued. And it’s something we all seriously need.
Why Connection is Important
Human connection is important because loneliness is an epidemic. One that increased even more during and after the pandemic.
We’ve all likely experienced and/or seen this loneliness epidemic firsthand. When the world shut down during the pandemic, life as we knew it changed drastically. Even if we quarantined with friends or family, we still likely suffered a lack of connection to friends, coworkers, community, people we share our hobbies with...even strangers we’d pass on the street or in the grocery store. Meeting people face-to-face now became a virtual, 2-D screen image that we all know is just not the same.
3 in every 5 Americans were lonely before the COVID.1 It’s no wonder this number only increased during the pandemic, especially in young adults.2
Even though society is back to being with and around people, you can still feel lonely even if you’re surrounded by people. Which can be problematic because loneliness can cause serious mental and physical health problems. Saying this isn’t to scare you if you are isolated or feel lonely. Rather, it’s important to paint the picture of the problem so that we all can see the significance of the solution—true, meaningful connection with other humans—much clearer.
Benefits of Community
Not only is human connection in general important, but the benefits of being connected to a community of people are even greater.
The 2021 World Happiness Report found that those who are connected to others had greater life satisfaction, more resilience, and better mental health.3 Other benefits of belonging to a community—a support system, stronger self esteem, sense of purpose, health benefits, and sharing—are outlined in detail below.
A Support System
Loneliness, and its negative consequences, often come from social isolation—either being physically alone or feeling disconnected even among other people. But when you get plugged into a community and find people to do life with, you’re no longer physically isolated and you also have a support system you can lean on when life gets rough. It's in community that we find people to bring us meals when we lose someone we love, stay up until 1am talking about our struggles, or simply encourage us with love and compassion in all circumstances.
When you feel supported by people in your community, you’re also more likely to feel accepted. Acceptance is a big piece in how we view ourselves and the world around us. Being supported and accepted strengthens our self-esteem because we know we have people we can be ourselves around. It can also help us cope with negative feelings and emotions. You don’t have to hide or shy away; you can be fully known and loved by other people. The real you is worth getting to be seen and known!
Sense of Purpose
It’s often in communities that we are able to not only get the help we need, but also help others who are going through a tough time. Feeling like we belong and are a part of something bigger than just ourselves can give us a sense of purpose, especially when things are hard or feel hopeless. Being unified with other people towards a common goal or interest also allows us to feel like our life has meaning and we have a purpose on this earth…because you do! Community can help bring that out in you.
Isolation and loneliness can cause an array of physical and mental health problems such as heart disease, a weakened immune system, and greater risk for anxiety and depression.4 But on the flip side, being connected to other people can lead to a longer lifespan, improved quality of life, and a mental health boost. Don’t underestimate the power that belonging to a community can have on your overall health and wellbeing!
Communities are often formed around a shared passion or interest, and engaging in those with like-minded people can help you feel better about yourself and your life. Having people you’re connected with also allows you to share your life experiences with others so that you don’t feel alone. Lastly, community allows us to open up and share what we are feeling and going through. When we are able to express our emotions, our brains release the “feel good” chemicals—serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins—increasing our happiness and mood. Sharing really is caring—to others and ourselves!
To wrap up, we hope you see that connecting with others is an important part of our overall well-being. Community is not just people we sometimes see or hang around, it is a place where we can share our burdens and find acceptance, comfort, and encouragement. Being connected in community provides us a place to belong, to be fully known and fully loved, as well as people to talk to and find support with.
How have you seen your life benefit from being connected to a community?
1: Cigna (https://www.cigna.com/static/www-cigna-com/docs/about-us/newsroom/studies-and-reports/combatting-loneliness/cigna-2020-loneliness-factsheet.pdf)
2: American Psychologist Association (https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2022/05/covid-19-increase-loneliness)
3: World happiness Report (https://worldhappiness.report/ed/2021/social-connection-and-well-being-during-covid-19/)
4: NIA (https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/social-isolation-loneliness-older-people-pose-health-risks)