Wellness

6 Ways To Support Your Mental Wellbeing By Boosting Your Social Connectedness

By Alexandra Ainsworth

Two women hugging each other for a photo.

Ready to commit to your wellbeing? Welcome to The Well, your go-to destination for all the inspiration you need to live the best version of yourself through evidence-based health tips from health professionals. In partnership with private health insurer, HBF, we’re helping you tap into a few things you could be doing right now to get the most out of 2023 and beyond.

With the cooler weather now settling in, it can feel that much harder to make the extra effort to get out and socialise. You might still feel like you’re connected to your nearest and dearest through digital platforms while you’re rugged up at home, but there is a risk that loneliness can arise as a negative feeling if you’re not receiving quality connections—and this might impact your mental wellbeing. This is where getting out of the house (or inviting people over) to get some face-to-face connection comes in.

Staying socially connected IRL is a fantastic way to boost your mental health and balance the winter blues. It doesn’t mean stacking your social calendar solid until the end of the year, but rather making socialising a priority alongside other self-care rituals like exercise. According to psychologist, Marny Lishman, the simple act of making a plan when it comes to incorporating quality social time into your weeks could do wonders. She says, “Map out what feels unsatisfactory in your current situation, what your goals are, and possible steps you can take to get there. Make time for conversations and catchups, and treat them as a priority.”

To get you started, we’ve pulled together a few great ways to stay connected with your friends, family, and community to help support your mental wellbeing.

Put Your Phone Away 

Pulling our phones out to have a cheeky scroll while we’re waiting for a friend, or to fill a lull in a conversation has become second nature to a lot of us. But putting your phone away while socialising can help you stay more engaged and connected. It can be eye-opening to realise just how much quality time can slip by when phones appear—unfortunately sending each other funny Reels while sitting in the same room might not be helping you stay as socially connected as you think. We promise that being present when you’re around others makes a world of difference when you hang out, and might even strengthen the social connections you already enjoy even further.

Lishman also notes that it’s important to be mindful of your relationship with social media and the time spent scrolling on your phone. She recommends being mindful about your screen time, “As wonderful as it is as a distraction and a chance to feel connected to others, we often overuse it and unhelpfully compare ourselves to others.” So when you’re mapping out your connectedness plan, think about where your phone usage fits in.  

Get Active

A great way to make new social connections, or strengthen existing ones is by joining a club. Whether it’s a fast-paced social sporting team or a super chilled walk or run club, joining a group that meets up on a regular basis can be a connecting experience for everyone involved. Studies have also shown that being a part of a team or a group may help boost your mental health by reducing your levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. And the fact you get to release some endorphins while you do so is definitely a plus. So maybe check out your local social netball or AFL league, grab a mate or go solo, and get moving and connecting. 

Volunteer In Your Local Community

If joining a sporting team isn’t up your alley, (or if coordination just ain’t your thing), looking into volunteering in your local area is a great way to form connections without breaking a sweat. Whether it’s getting involved with a community garden, donating free pats to a greyhound rescue or the RSPCA or planting trees to support local ecosystems, there are plenty of opportunities to lend a hand and meet new people. Search ‘volunteering in your state’ and think about what would bring you joy when factoring in a day or two of community connection into your plan. Lishman says, “Making sure you spend time doing activities that you love matters—and often, as a bonus, you might meet people with the same values.”

Get Creative

Joining a group full of strangers can feel a little daunting to some, so why not create your own community group full of your mates? Spend an afternoon together once a month working on your passion projects, like writing or knitting, start a book club, or bust out some board games for a healthy dose of nostalgia and good-old analogue fun. Getting together with a task at hand is a great way to not only spend more time with your friends but also learn or hone a new skill.

Make The Most Of Meal Times

Life can get pretty hectic when you’re balancing work, family and your social life—but everyone has to eat, right? Organising a time to all gather together and make a nutritious meal is a great way to spend some quality time together. Whether you’re keen to pick up a few skills in the kitchen or if you’re ready to share some of your own cooking knowledge, having your mates around to make a meal together is a great way to connect and keep your hands away from your phone. Plus, you’ll end up with a delicious feed that won’t break the bank. 

Don’t Over Do It

It’s easy to forget, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. If you find you’ve swung to the other end of the socialising spectrum and your calendar has reached absolute capacity, you might be at risk of a social hangover. Symptoms of a social hangover might include, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, stressed or a little snappy and short-tempered. Some people also report difficulty with focus, brain fog, headaches, insomnia, and feeling like everything takes more work than usual. To combat this feeling of social burnout, come back to your trusty plan—lock in dedicated moments for some quality ‘me time’ to relax and recharge so you can get the most out of your social calendar without overdoing it. 

If you want to learn more about how to improve your social connectedness to support your overall wellbeing, head over here

Keen to get on top of your stress levels? Head over here for five counsellor-approved ways to manage stress.

This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.

This article is sponsored by HBF and proudly endorsed by Urban List. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.

Image credit: Urban List

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