ASK THE DOC: Social connections to others boost our own health

Dr Eddie Murphy gives his expert advice

Dr Eddie Murphy


Dr Eddie Murphy


ASK THE DOC: Social connections to others boost our own health

When we connect with each other we are nurturing our emotional lives PIC:Pixabay

Fundamentally we are social animals, we all need connection. Isolation and loneliness set the conditions for despair and depression.

Feeling connected allows us to feel belonged, wanted and cherished. Now is a good time to review your relationships and strengthen them. In the world of psychology we call this social support.

Social support is the belief and actuality that a person is care for, has assistance from other people and is part of a supportive group e.g. family, friends, neighbours, co-workers and community.

In addition pets can provide social support. With social support comes, friendship, practical and emotional support. I was part of the Loneliness Taskforce and was very conscious of the health impacts of loneliness.

With emotional support we offer and receive concern, affection, love, empathy, trust, and encouragement. In essence, support brings warmth and nurturance.

These are the fundamental building blocks to us growing and maturing in an emotionally healthy way. They are the essential building blocks to metal fitness and resilience.

When it comes to mental health, too often we talk about the presence or absence of mental illness.

Instead we need to be more proactive and promote our own mental fitness and feeling connected is a fundamental part in your mental fitness regime.

Emotional Wellbeing

Psychological research has shown that having good levels of social support has distinct health benefits — both physical and emotional.

For example, social support has been demonstrated to increase psychological well-being in the workplace .

In response to significant life events, it is proven to reduce anxiety and depression.

It can promote psychological adjustment in conditions with chronic high stress including rheumatoid, arthritis, cancer, stroke, and coronary artery disease.

Indeed individuals with low social support report more symptoms of depression and anxiety than do people with high social support.

Physical Wellbeing

Social support has been shown to be linked to positive physical health outcomes in individuals.

Indeed people with low social support are at a much higher risk of death from a variety of diseases (e.g., cancer, cardiovascular disease), while people with higher social support have an increased likelihood for survival.

Having studied heart disease it is interesting to know that higher rates of social support is linked with faster recovery from coronary artery surgery and predicts less clogging of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and can slow the progression of an already diagnosed cardiovascular disease.

From the farmer in West Cork, the hotelier in Westport, to the IT consultant on Hill 16 we can see the power of connection. When we connect with each other we are nurturing our emotional lives and our physical health. The power of sport help us to connect.

When it comes to connecting here are my top three tips;

1. Say Yes To New Experiences

If asked to an event, say yes. Look at your connections in your life, and get involved or strengthen them such as friends, hobbies, volunteer groups, sports, social events. Check Volunteer Ireland — your will get more out than you will give —

Get involved, the risk is worth it.

2. Be open to new experiences

Take your courage in your hands and get out of your comfort zone.

It’s when you are out of your comfort zone that great things happen, nothing grows in the comfort zone including you.

3. Find Passions in Your Life

Whether you were a player or spectator, having passions in your life is critical.

With this passion propelled by vision and purpose you will engage life with joy and enthusiasm.

What are your life passions? Have you discovered them?

For me, I am passionate about our country’s mental/emotional health and wellbeing.

I am passionate that good mental health is not the presence or absence of mental illness.

It’s about wellbeing, experiencing positive emotions of such as peace, joy, happiness, zest, hope, awe and inspiration.

I passionately want our country to have new conversations about our mental health.

I am passionate about reducing the numbers of suicides in our society.

I am passionate that those with disabilities live in environments where dignity, compassion fun and freedom abound.

If you have found your passion great. If not, to discover and live your passion you need to creating space for it in your inner and outer world.

It’s time to declutter your emotional baggage, overcrowded schedules and physical stuff. Clarity, energy, and time are integral in creating a passionate life. Take chances, take risks to explore your passions.

Dr Eddie Murphy runs a psychological and counselling service in Portarlington, Co Laois. If you are organising a speaker or training for school, community, voluntary, sporting or work groups, call Dr Eddie on 087 1302899 or go to dr.eddie.murphy.psychologist