Increase Your Social Connections To Reduce Stress

Any Positive Social Connection Helps Reduce Stress

We all know that stress is a real problem for good health. Our world today floods our lives with stress from so many angles that it is important to learn how to reduce and manage stress using a variety of tools.

Today we’re going to look at the impact that positive social connections with other people have on stress levels. By having healthy social connections and lowering stress in our minds and bodies, we can improve our overall health.

Remember — even small positive social connections can reduce stress levels and improve your health.

Stress is often beneficial, helping us raise our performance to meet a critical deadline or to excel in an athletic competition. It’s also key to our survival — the body’s natural response to threat and danger. However, long-term stressing can take a toll, leaving us vulnerable to a host of emotional and physical problems. Fortunately, there are a number of learned techniques for controlling its harmful effects. In addition, new research shows that our innate ability to bond, both by words and by touch, has a calming effect on the body.

A scientific literature review conducted by The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education on behalf of Dignity Health shows that a simple gesture of empathy and concern makes us feel more connected. The review of published clinical studies examines how feelings of trust, safety, and comfort lower the body’s stress-related responses and in turn improve heart health.

Showing a Little Compassion Goes a Long Way

When we feel connected to another person, our bodies respond in ways that help us feel calmer, particularly during a health crisis. A study in the medical journal Cancer showed that breast cancer patients who perceived their doctor as compassionate, warm, and caring during their initial interaction were less stressed in the months following surgery.

A different medical study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology compared two videotaped conversations between a physician and a woman with breast cancer. In one video, the physician was unemotional and simply laid out the risks and benefits of treatment options. In the other video, the conversation was enhanced with an additional 40 seconds of footage in which the doctor expressed support, sympathy, and compassion for the patient’s difficult situation.

Breast cancer patients who watched this act of kindness were significantly less anxious than those who watched the first video. They were more likely to believe the doctor cared about the patient and wanted to involve the patient in decision-making — behaviors associated with improved long-term management of stress-related bodily responses.
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How To Nurture Good Social Connections

The world is more connected than ever but for most people it is easy to feel alone. Here are suggestions of ways to nuture good social connections and relationships to enrich your life, lower your stress and improve your health.

Give and take: The foundation of social networks

A successful relationship is a two-way street. The better a friend you are, the better your friends will be. Here are some suggestions for nurturing your relationships:

  • Stay in touch. Answering phone calls, returning emails and reciprocating invitations let people know you care.
  • Don’t compete. Be happy instead of jealous when your friends succeed, and they’ll celebrate your accomplishments in return.
  • Be a good listener. Listen when your friends are speaking. Find out what’s important to your friends. You might find you have even more in common than you think.
  • Don’t overdo it. In your zeal to extend your social network, be careful not to overwhelm friends and family with phone calls and emails. Save those high-demand times for when you really need them.
  • And while sharing is important, be wary of “oversharing” information that’s personal or sensitive, especially with new or casual acquaintances and on social networking sites.
  • Appreciate your friends and family. Take time to say thank you and express how important they are to you. Be there for them when they need support.

The bottom line

Remember that the goal of building your social support network is to reduce your stress level, not add to it. Watch for situations that seem to drain your energy. For example, avoid spending too much time with someone who is constantly negative and critical. Similarly, steer clear of people involved in unhealthy behaviors, such as alcohol or substance abuse, especially if you’ve struggled with addictions.

Taking the time to build a social support network is a wise investment not only in your mental well-being but also in your physical health and longevity.
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Are there things you could do to increase your social network?



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