The Easiest Ways To Improve Your Connection With Others, Expert Shares - Exclusive

If you're looking for a reason to justify taking time for self care this weekend, we have one for you. On Saturday, June 11, people all over the world participated in Global Wellness Day, a day set aside to raise awareness about the importance of mental and physical healthcare.

Started in 2012 by Belgin Aksoy, Global Wellness Day is celebrated on the second Saturday in June each year, with 2023's taking place on June 10. While next year's theme hasn't been announced at the time this article is being written, 2022's theme, #ThinkMagenta, is still very relevant and important to prioritize.

For Aksoy, #ThinkMagenta is about recognizing what we actually have control over, like our reactions to stressful situations, and letting go of what we don't. "#ThinkMagenta is not about being optimistic," Aksoy explained to Spa Opportunities, "It's about being realistic. Things happen in our lives and we have the choice to call them good or bad."

One of the ways we can add more color to our lives is to spend time tending to the connections we have with other people. Mari Sierra, head of wellness for OYE, a new free wellness app, pointed out to The List exclusively that, "[e]specially after the pandemic we all got to learn how important it is to have a healthy support system, and tending to our relationships requires time, commitment and care."

Maintaining friendships can have a positive impact on your health

Connecting with other people is a great way to improve your mind-body connection and overall health, both mental and physical — a.k.a, the whole purpose of Global Wellness Day.

If you've taken an intro to psychology class, you've most likely learned about Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs," and how we need to feel like we belong and are loved in order to be able to psychologically develop (via American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine). Recent studies have proven, though, that social interaction and human connection impacts your physical health just as much as your mental health. Dr. Emma Seppala writes for Stanford Medicine's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education that obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure are all less harmful to your health than a "lack of social connection."

Like with many other examples of mind-body connections, studies have shown that when you connect with other people, you can help not just strengthen your immune system, but connection may even help you live longer (via Stanford Medicine). Social connections are also reported by the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine as having positive effects on body mass index, the body's ability to control blood sugar, lower depression rates, and the management of post traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Plus, people who make the time to cultivate social connections are also more likely to have higher self-esteem, more empathy, and are more trusted individuals, studies also show, per Stanford Medicine.

Easy ways to improve your connection with others

Being around other people is a good start, but connecting with them is a whole other matter. "We are social beings and culture creators," Mari Sierra, head of wellness for the OYE wellness app, reminded us during a recent interview. "[I]n relationships we grow, we learn, we create and make meaning."

For many people, social anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder symptoms can get in the way of being able to connect with new people, or even the people closest to them. To manage this, Sierra suggests doing breathing exercises if you're feeling triggered. "[S]low breathing restores balance in the nervous system," Sierra explained to The List exclusively, "leading to greater mental clarity and centering, resulting in less reactivity."

Never done a breathing exercise? Don't worry — they're simple. Sierra told us that all you need to do is "inhale for three, hold for two, and exhale for three." She added, Repeat [the exercise] three times and your emotional landscape will change so you can handle the situation with more presence and clarity."

Getting into a normal socializing routine, like joining a book club or taking a floral design class, is a great way to meet new people, get comfortable being in social situations, and give yourself a break from your normal day-to-day (via Mental Health America). Sierra says to make sure that you are actively listening, too, when you're spending time connecting with others because it's the key to making deeper, more meaningful, and compassion-filled connections.