As the days grow shorter and we start to bundle up against the cold, I have noticed that we also have a tendency to hibernate. Although this is a necessary annual practice for some of our relatives in the animal kingdom, it has the potential to be detrimental to us humans.
We are social beings, and as such, crave connection and support, both of which can wane as we recede into the warmth of our homes and huddle inside awaiting winter. I am the first to admit that I am guilty of this practice. There is something about coming home when it’s already dark outside that makes me yearn for my couch and reach for my sweatpants. I find myself less motivated to call up a friend or invite people over and after a few weeks, I end up feeling quite lonely and out of touch.
There is some great research out there to keep in mind this fall. I am hoping that it will serve as a reminder to reach out and that it will motivate me to stay more connected with others.
Five Fun Facts about Social Support
De-stress: Connecting with others and allowing for support during stressful situations can improve a person’s health and wellbeing.
Boost longevity: Emotional support from others positively influences physical health and longevity.
Be empowered: Individuals with meaningful connections to others are more likely to think in positive and empowering ways.
Protect yourself: Self-esteem and social support serve as protective factors against perceived life stressors.
Up your satisfaction: Self-esteem is associated with lower anxiety, depression and distress and higher levels of life satisfaction and happiness.
This month, I invite you to be more aware of your emotions and behavior as the seasons change. Are you spending more time inside? Are you feeling disconnected? Are you craving a boost in your social network? Or perhaps you have not heard from a friend in a while.
There is nothing wrong with spending time alone but when this solo time begins to shift to loneliness, it may be time to re-connect and reach out.
All my best,
Chao, Ruth Chu-Lien. (2012) Managing Perceived Stress Among College Students: The Roles of Social Support and Dysfunctional Coping. Journal of College Counseling, 15:5-21.
Kawachi, Ichiro and Lisa Berkman. (2001) Social Ties and Mental Health. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 78:458-467.
Steinhardt, Mary and Christyn Dolbier. (2008) Evaluation of a Resilience Intervention to Enhance Coping Strategies and Protective Factors and Decrease Symptomatology. Journal of American College Health, 56: 445-453.
Thoits, Peggy. (2011). Mechanisms Linking Social tied and Support to Physical and Mental Health. Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, 52:145-161.