What is connection and why is it beneficial?
As a health and care professional, you may find that work can be all-consuming. Professionals often give so much of themselves that they lose sight of what is important to them too. We believe that feeling connected is a key component of emotional health and well-being.
Connection is defined as the relationship of a person, thing or behaviour to someone or something else – Cambridge Dictionary.
How can I connect when I am so busy?
It is important to know that despite our busy day to day lives, that taking time to connect spiritually, socially, or with nature provides benefit to our overall well-being. This is not just physically, but also for our mental and emotional health.
Take time for yourself and you will be in a stronger position to give yourself and your time to others.
What are the key areas of connectivity?
We will explore three key areas of connection in more detail: spirituality, social connection, and nature.
We hope that the following information provides you with the resources you need to feel more connected.
Spirituality is one aspect of connection that is often narrowly interpreted as being about religion, although religion is only one element of spirituality.
Spirituality is about what is important to you, your values and beliefs and what gives you a sense of meaning in life.
We often hold these beliefs and values without even spending time to consider what they are. The Royal College of Psychiatrists suggest there is no one definition. In general, spirituality:
- is something everyone can experience
- helps us to find meaning and purpose in the things we value
- can bring hope and healing in times of suffering and loss
- encourages us to seek the best relationship with ourselves, others and what lies beyond.
Spirituality often becomes more important in times of emotional stress, physical and mental illness, loss, bereavement and the approach of death.
All health care tries to relieve pain and to cure, though good health care tries to do more. Spirituality emphasises the healing of the person, not just the illness. It views life as a journey, where good and bad experiences can help you to learn, develop and grow.
Dr Maya Spencer provides a helpful exploration of spirituality:
Download PDF: What is spirituality? A personal exploration.
What is social connectedness?
Social connection has been defined by Dr Emma Seppala as “the subjective experience of feeling close to and a sense of belongingness to others”. Find out more.
As a health and care professional, it is important that you can:
- come together
- build relationships
- feel you belong to a community
- develop a sense of purpose.
The importance of social connectedness in supporting public mental health and well-being is well established. The positives of social connection include:
- living longer
- improved immunity
- higher self-esteem
- lower rates of anxiety and depression.
It is well worth reaching out and connecting in whatever way feels right for you.
Read more articles about social connection:
In this TED talk, Dr Emma Seppala gives a helpful explanation of the power and science of social connection. Although it focuses on the American population, it does identify the positives and negatives of interaction with social connection that are applicable to anyone.
Social connectedness – five dimensions
You may look for or have different perspectives on what social connectedness is or what you may gain from this experiential concept.
A systematic review identified five dimensions by themes, describing the experience of social connectedness as being:
- identity and common bond
- valued relationships
- feeling cared for and accepted.
You can read more about this on the National Elf Service website (The Mental Elf).
What social connection means for you
If you feel able to, consider the following questions as an aid to personal development:
- Do you see strengths in your own social connectedness?
- Do you see gaps in your own social connectedness?
- If you do, then what might you do to gain more from social connectedness to strengthen your emotional health and well-being?
Evidence shows that engaging with the natural world benefits our mental health and well-being.
This may be easier for some than others as not everyone has access to wide open green spaces. But even in urban areas, you can still benefit from walking outside, looking at the sky, listening to birdsong and taking time to notice what’s around you.
Some evidence suggests that we might even get more benefit if we walk or run in natural environments as opposed to indoors. In doing so we can lower feelings of anger, fatigue and sadness. Further evidence found that as little as five minutes in open green spaces could be enough to improve your mood and levels of self-esteem
The Mental Health Foundation and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have developed a guide packed with inspiration and information to help connect with nature.
Download PDF: Thriving with nature. The Mental Health Foundation.
You can learn more about the link between the natural world and our mental health in the following articles:
Benefits of spending time in nature
Many of us have busy and stressful lives and might not get many opportunities to relax and switch off. Spending time outdoors, whether being physical or relaxing has positive benefits for:
- improved emotional well-being and mood
- increasing life satisfaction
- and reducing the risk of mental health problems such as depression.
It is important to know that despite our busy day-to-day lives with loved ones and work, that taking time to connect spiritually, socially or with nature will provide benefits to our overall well-being. Taking time for yourself means that you will be in a stronger position to give your time to others.
The following videos are examples of how engaging with nature can improve your physical and mental well-being.
Jill's story: Ecominds and Well-being Comes Naturally
In this video, Jill tells us how she has boosted her physical well-being and learnt new skills by volunteering at a TCV Green Gym in Regent's Park.
Freddy's story: Experiencing forest time
In this video, Freddy finds space and time in the forest to support her recovery.