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Social Connections are the Theme of Day 4 of Women’s Health Week

The theme for day four of women’s health week is building and maintaining social connections.

Research shows that belonging to a community can help you stay healthy and happy and it’s important to know how to build and maintain social confidence and increase your ability to engage with others.

Social connections are made up of the people you engage with and know, the friends you can confide in, the family you belong to and the community you work and live in, and are important to your overall health. Social support refers to the emotional, practical, advice, love, help, resources, information and empathy you give and receive among family, friends and community.

Why it’s important to be socially connected

Social connectedness has an influence on physical and emotional wellbeing as well as positive health behaviors.

Being positively connected with others positively impacts heart health and long term survival if you have suffered any heart or cardiac problems. Research shows that engaging with others and being part of a network, is seen as a reward by the brain and is associated with the release of one of the happiness hormones, dopamine. Higher rates of depression are found in people who don’t have connections with others and who are socially isolated. The presence of depression can be both a cause and a consequence of a lack of social support.

The combination of depression and low levels of social connectedness can also increase the risk of unhealthy behaviors such as less physical activity, excessive drinking of alcohol and smoking, and can be a major barrier to the adoption of healthy lifestyle behaviors. Unhealthy behaviors may lead to a number of chronic diseases, one of which is heart disease.

Confidence and social connections

Your own level of confidence can affect whether you connect with others. You might feel shy around others and this can lower your confidence even further, particularly if it makes you feel inadequate.

The way other people have treated you in social situations can either lower or raise your confidence too. Having people in your life who are negative or who make you feel like you are not good enough can dent your confidence and make you want to hide away.

Confidence to engage can be different for each person and change from day to day but the good news is there is lots you can do to help your confidence.

Tips to help you engage with others

  • Be less critical of yourself and others in social situations
  • Join a group or start one if there are none in your area and you have an idea for a group – this could be a book club, art group, discussion or walking group
  • Try new experiences and gradually increase the amount of time you spend in building new social skills and making new connections
  • Seek out groups on social media who share the same values, interests and ideas as you – Facebook, LinkedIn or Pinterest for example have lots of different groups you can join to share conversations with like-minded people
  • Practise looking more confident in the mirror – e.g. practise maintaining eye contact
  • Practise a few lines of conversation and think about a few topics of conversation before you arrive somewhere
  • Volunteer to meet new people – this might be a committee, club, baking, driving older people to appointments or visiting lonely people; volunteering gives you meaning and supporting others can add to your confidence.

For more great information, including podcasts, go to http://www.womenshealthweek.com.au/day-4

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