The Strength in Community:5 Ways Connectedness Can Improve Your Mental Health



There is something profoundly powerful about the Black community. We love to gather together and bond with each other over food, music, games, and events celebrating our beautiful and rich culture. Therefore, it’s safe to say that being social is in our DNA. Research reveals that the more we are socially connected to others, the better our overall well-being (Pietromonaco & Collins, 2017). However, the pandemic has made it quite challenging to stay connected with those we love and care for, and even more challenging to develop new relationships. Therefore, we’ve highlighted five ways that relationships with others can benefit your overall well-being. Check them out:

1. Connectedness Helps Combat Isolation – Isolation is not your friend, yet it knows how to creep in and keep you quietly deserted. The requirement to quarantine and practice physical distance has been a major trigger for depression and anxiety. Talking with someone else can serve as a source of encouragement and counter the narrative that you are not alone in your troubles or that no one cares about you. Whether it is through Zoom or picking up the phone to call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while or sending a text message, reaching out to your support system can help you fight the pandemic blues. If and when others ask how you’re feeling, let them know that you are having a hard time and share 1 or 2 things that they can do to support you. When others know that you are struggling, they can be more proactive in checking in on you.


2. Connectedness Expands Your Professional Network:

Who you know can determine how you grow. Our professional networks matter! The right relationships help you thrive and push you to be the best version of yourself. When you join people who share similar goals and interests, it has the potential to influence and challenge you to excel in numerous ways. With the increase of virtual events resulting from the pandemic, there are so many different options you can explore. Find a professional virtual group that aligns with an area of interest or your desired field of work – start mixing and mingling!


When you attend virtual events, take opportunities to engage with 1 or 2 new people. Share your name and what you hope to gain from the event. Try posing a question to others in the event that will invite people to connect with you. If you’re hoping to change professions or industries, now is an excellent opportunity to network virtually; this may be one time in which you have easy access to other professionals. Make some new connections that can help take you to the next level!


3. Connectedness Allows You to Help Yourself by Helping Others:

Find fulfillment in serving others. It feels good to help someone who could use an extra hand. If you live alone and don’t have a large circle of friends and family members to connect with, find volunteer work online. Volunteering allows you to engage in more meaningful and purposeful work. There are thousands of virtual volunteer opportunities on https://www.volunteermatch.org/virtual-volunteering. Visit the website and get busy helping someone who could use the unique services you have to offer!


4. Connectedness Helps You Cope with Stress :

Daily stressors are real, especially when balancing family, friends, finances, work, and other responsibilities. It can be challenging to go through life experiences alone. When you have someone to talk or laugh with, it makes the daily stressors you are experiencing less challenging. If you find yourself having a rough day, reach out to a friend or family member and laugh together! Good conversation and laughter can be medicinal to your soul. In InnoPsych’s Finding My Sweet Spot card deck, you can send a note or letter to a friend letting them know how much they mean to you.


5. Connectedness Helps Regulate Emotions:

Relationships can help manage your emotions. A study indicated that a lack of social connections could make regulating your emotions difficult (Walton et al., 2012). When an event or situation occurs that leads you to feel angry, frustrated, or sad, it becomes natural to react and make decisions based on your current feelings. However, by reaching out to those who are effective at managing emotions, you may find they can instantly influence you and help you respond instead of reacting.



Whether we relate with others through friendships and family relationships, or peacefully protesting together, we were created to connect. Connection in the Black community serves as a tool for emotional, spiritual, and mental health. Surrounding yourself with positive, trustworthy, authentic, and safe individuals can strengthen how you see yourself and experience the world. Developing new relationships and professional connections can help you climb the professional ladder and soar into your desired area of interest. Our circle of relationships can shape our identities and contribute to a healthier life.


Be intentional and be creative. Social connection is possible, even in a pandemic!





References


Pietromonaco, P. R., & Collins, N. L. (2017). Interpersonal mechanisms linking close relationships to health. The American Psychologist, 72(6), 531–531.


Walton, G. M., Cohen, G. L., Cwir, D., & Spencer, S. J. (2012). Mere belonging: the power of social connections. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(3), 513–513. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025731



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