“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” – Dr. Brene Brown.
This quote above exemplifies the power of connectedness. When people feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves, they begin to feel connected. Not only can individuals feel connected to others, they also can feel connected to their community, activities they are a part of, their work/school, and many more things. Research shows us the many benefits of connectedness and how it can improve our mental health. In order to buffer other risk factors in individuals’ lives, it is important each person feels some degree of connection.
Research shows people have lower levels of anxiety and higher self-esteem when they feel more connected to others. Feelings of connectedness creates a more positive well-being for individuals. When people are socially connected, they can experience increased feelings of belonging, self-worth, and confidence. Connection is not defined by the number of friends or relationships a person has, but by the quality of relationships that exist.
The CDC defines connectedness as “the degree to which a person or group is socially close, interrelated, or shares resources with other persons or groups.” You will notice in this definition it uses the phrase “socially close”. This particular phrase stood out to me as we are all currently practicing “social distancing”. I have heard people encourage others to use the phrase “physical distancing” versus “social distancing”, and this definition makes me agree with them even more. During this time, it is imperative for each and every one of us to maintain social closeness. Physically we need to remain distant, but socially we do not. We all need to use whatever resources we have available to us to remain connected. Humans are social creatures, so it is imperative we do our best to find ways to stay socially connected, even if it looks different than what it has in the past.
Connection might seem difficult during COVID-19. The usual ways we connect: getting coffee with a friend, attending a conference for work, or even going shopping with family, are all currently not feasible. But even though we cannot do the same things we used to do, that does not mean we still cannot connect. Whether we use technology and connect on social media apps, wave to a stranger we drive or walk by, or even buy the coffee for the person behind us – we are still connecting. Even though connection might look different right now that doesn’t mean it is not connection. During COVID-19, I encourage all of you to find new ways to connect to your friends, family, and loved ones. I know this time is very difficult and can wear on our mental health, but social connection is a buffer to feelings of isolation and loneliness we could experience. We are all in this together and there are many resources available where other people are willing and eager to listen to whatever you are going through. Do not be afraid to reach out. Overall, social connection is what brings us together and the more connected we feel, the more we can better take care of our mental health.
Katie Zimmerman, Project Coordinator for The Kim Foundation
Katie Zimmerman joined The Kim Foundation in June 2019. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and Sociology from Central College in Pella, Iowa. During her time in college, she volunteered at many non-profit organizations and took multiple sociology classes which focused on mental health. Katie’s role at The Kim Foundation includes running the social media accounts, assisting in the Youth Advisory Council, and providing mental health awareness and education to the community through A Voice for Hope and Healing presentations.