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Building Strong Connections and Seeking Counselling for a Healthier You

According to one recent study by Massachusetts General Hospital, “social connection [is] the strongest protective factor for depression.”

Depression is a mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. And although there is no one-size-fits-all solution to overcoming depression, studies have shown that human connection and strong relationships can play a significant role in managing and even combating this debilitating condition. In this blog article, we will discuss the importance of human connection, ways to build strong connections, and how counselling can help you develop healthy relationships and tackle depression.

The Power of Human Connection in Fighting Depression

One landmark study showed that “lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure”

On the other hand, according to Stanford Medicine, a robust social connection:

  • Increases the likelihood of a longer life by 50% and may even extend your life.
  • Bolsters your immune system (research by Steve Cole reveals that genes affected by loneliness are also linked to immune function and inflammation).
  • Accelerates recovery from illnesses.

The research also revealed that individuals who experience a stronger connection to others exhibit lower levels of anxiety and depression. Additionally, studies indicate that they possess higher self-esteem, greater empathy towards others, and are more trusting and cooperative. As a result, other people become more inclined to trust and cooperate with them. In essence, social connectedness creates a positive feedback loop that enhances social, emotional, and physical well-being.

So, the evidence is clear that human connection is vital to our overall well-being. Strong relationships with friends, family, and significant others provide support and a sense of belonging, which can help protect us from depression. But why is that, exactly? Here are just a few of the reasons why human connections are essential for combating depression:

Social Support: Being connected to others helps us feel supported and understood. This support system can encourage us to share our thoughts, feelings, and concerns, which can help alleviate depressive symptoms.

Sense of Purpose: Strong connections give us a sense of purpose and belonging. When we feel valued and included, we are more likely to engage in activities that bring us joy and satisfaction – and this, in turn, improves our mental health.

Emotional Regulation: Social interactions can help us better regulate our emotions. When we are connected to others, we are more likely to express and process our emotions in a healthy way, reducing the risk of depressive symptoms becoming overwhelming.

Building Strong Connections

Social connections can be difficult to maintain and even more difficult to build from scratch when making new friends. If you’re someone who suffers from depression, you may find it even more difficult due to having to manage your depression, protect your energy, and tackle your symptoms all at the same time. It’s exhausting! Building strong connections takes time and effort for anyone – especially those living with depression- but the benefits to your mental health are well worth the investment. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it helps to get back to basics. Here are some simple tips to make it easier to build stronger relationships:

Be Open and Honest: Share your thoughts and feelings with the people around you. When we open up to others, we build trust and create deeper connections. It also helps those around you know what’s going on with you, and understand you better. Give people the benefit of the doubt and trust that they want to help if they can. 

Invest Time and Effort: Relationships take time and effort to grow. Make an effort to reach out to friends and family regularly, and be present during your interactions. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or your struggle with depression means it’s hard for you to be there for others sometimes, let them know what’s going on and tell them you still care. They’ll be around when you are ready. 

Be Empathetic: Practice empathy by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and trying to understand their feelings and experiences. Depression can make it hard to relate to others – after all, you’ve got a lot going on in your mind right now – but taking some time out to give empathy to your loved ones can not only be great for them, it can help you to feel good too.  

Join Social Groups: Engage in activities that interest you and join clubs or social groups where you can meet like-minded individuals. This is a great way to make new connections and build relationships based on things you have in common. It can be daunting going out on your own, of course. Especially if you’re not feeling your best. But that’s why finding things you’re interested in is a good place to start. 

The Role of Counselling in Building Healthy Relationships and Tackling Depression

At the end of the day, struggling with depression is difficult, no matter how many good, strong human connections you have. But it’s not something you need to go through alone. Even with the help of supportive friends and loved ones, knowing how to manage your depression is tough. Counselling can be an essential tool for individuals struggling with depression as well as those looking to build healthier relationships. Here’s how counselling can help:

Identifying Patterns: A trained therapist can help you identify hard-to-spot unhealthy patterns in your relationships and provide guidance on how to change them.

Improving Communication Skills: Counselling can teach you effective communication strategies, enabling you to express yourself clearly and listen actively to others. This is the best way to improve your relationships and build new ones. 

Emotional Awareness: Therapy can help you become more aware of your emotions, making it easier to manage and express them healthily. Being self-aware is a big key to tackling the hold depression has over you. 

Building Self-Esteem: A counsellor can work with you to develop self-esteem and self-worth, which are essential for forming and maintaining strong connections with others, as well as for overcoming depression. 

Developing Coping Strategies: Therapy can provide you with tools to cope with depression, helping you feel more in control and less overwhelmed. Some of these tools may involve help from your loved ones and others will be things you can work on, on your own. But all of them will help not only to combat depression, but also build better, stronger human connections. 

Human connection is a powerful tool in fighting depression, and building strong relationships can significantly impact your mental health for the better. By investing time and effort in nurturing connections, practicing empathy, and seeking counselling when needed, you can develop healthier relationships and effectively tackle depression- it’s a win win! Remember, no one should face depression alone – reach out to friends, family, or a mental health specialist like Integrated Health Specialists today. 


Michelle van Namen
Author: Michelle van Namen