Human Connection: The Profound Impact and Power it Holds

"Connection is 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." —Brené Brown, Professor of Social Work at the University of Houston

The value of human connection – a panacea for all mental health issues. Would you believe that someone’s life could be saved just by having a genuine human connection?  Let’s dive into its importance and why we all need it. First, what does it mean? Human connection is defined as being the exchange of positive energy between people. It is created when two or more people feel understood by one another. A trust-building, rewarding, and inspiring sense of feeling, human connection is something we all need. 

There is an abundantly overwhelming need for the facilitation of human connection, and long-term research goes to support it. Think of all of the times in your life where you’ve been with your friends or loved ones and you feel seen, valued, and understood. How rewarding does it feel to be in the presence of those who you mutually value and treasure? Many of us don’t always stop to think about how this kind of connection is tied to how we feel overall in our everyday lives. What most of us don’t even realize is that our feelings of connectedness to others is interwoven throughout all areas of our life. 

Human connection is just as important of a component to overall well-being as is physical activity or meditation. Take a second to think of all of the people in your life with whom you’ve experienced a connection. Immerse yourself in the feeling of gratitude for having healthy bonds with those who make you feel understood and valued. Think also for a second, how you put these healthy feelings to use in the many areas of your life. If we begin to think about our daily healthy activities and how they impact the other areas of our life, human connection is something that many of us fail to stop to think about as being one of these practices, though it is far more impactful than we know when it relates to other areas of our lives and our sense of self. 

Human and social connections are like lifestyle medicine. Many studies show how human and social connection should be considered just as essential as physical exercise or eating healthy.  It’s been proven that connection lowers anxiety and depression, helps us regulate our emotions better, and leads to higher self-esteem and empathy. Harvard’s 80-year study has shown how connection helps us to live longer, healthier lives. It’s concluded that close connections and relationships are the driving forces that keep humans happy and healthy, more than any other factor (Harvard Gazette).

Many prominent figures in psychiatry and psychology have done extensive research on the importance of connection. A leader in the field of social interactions, Dr. Jane E. Dutton has defined connection as, “the dynamic, living tissue that exists between two people when there is some contact between them involving mutual awareness and social interaction. The existence of some interaction means that individuals have affected one another in some way, giving connections a temporal as well as an emotional dimension (National Institutes of Health).”  Studies have shown that low social interactions and human connection have devastating effects on one’s overall wellbeing. 

To feel supported and understood is one of the most special things life has to offer. Without this feeling of belonging and support, those who don’t have it are subject to a devastating sense of themselves and their lives. As some of us may have experienced in our lives, a lack of human connection can take a toll on our overall emotional and even physical well-being. Conversely, many of us have had amazing experiences and feelings of human connection that have affected us positively. For example, think of a time where you felt the support of a friend or loved one when you were working toward a goal … how wonderful it was to know that someone other than you, believed in you. 

Humans have genetically evolved to experience human connection and its benefits. Feeling a sense of connection and belonging is correlated to overall self-worth, confidence, and wellbeing. Someone who may be struggling with Substance Use Disorder is an individual who may already have a low sense of self-worth or sense of connection to others. For those with SUD, having the component of a strong support system as part of their long-term recovery can make all the difference. If your loved one is struggling or recovering from SUD, a key factor in helping them is to make them feel supported, understood, and loved. Having conversations and feelings of connection with a companion is one of the best things to help someone who has or is recovering from SUD when they’re building their sense of self-worth and fixing negative thought patterns. Having no support system and a sense of human connection can make recovery a difficult journey. 

Here are some ways to create a deep sense of connection and support for those on their recovery journey, or for anyone wanting to strengthen their connections: 

  • Lead conversations that seek to show optimism in support of their recovery and overall life, or conversations that spark a positive outlook on the future. 
  • Give positive words of affirmation. 
  • Have daily check-ins, this can be just a minimum of 5 minutes. Small amounts of time dedicated to creating spaces that support a deep connection provide all the difference when working toward a healthy lifestyle. 
  • Try to stick to some sort of constant. For example, make it a goal to go on a walk or get a cup of coffee with this person once every few weeks. 
  • Show support in ways that aren’t necessarily expected. For example, a quick text saying “You are amazing and I’m proud of you.”, can also make a huge difference.

A Ted Talk titled, “Everything You Know About Addiction is Wrong,” presented by Johann Hari, explains how a sense of connection and love are the key ways to help someone with SUD. Hari went on to state that “the opposite of addiction is connection.” (TED Talk). Human connection is an essential piece of our lives, and even more so for those who are struggling with SUD. As you move through your day-to-day lives, stop to think about how essential it is to have and maintain a sense of human and social connection, as it is tied to life more than you think. If your loved one is struggling with SUD, there are many ways that you can help create within them, a feeling of connection. 

If you have or are recovering from SUD, remember that there are people who love you and who will support you during your recovery. And of course, we at Tigger House Foundation are always here for you. We understand the importance of supporting those with substance use disorder toward their recovery.  Please don’t be afraid to reach out. Contact our Addiction Navigator at help@tiggerhouse.org or 732-865-1559. If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, please visit our website, www.tiggerhousefoundation.org, and explore our channels to get the help you need today.