Feb 14, 2023, 5:00 am UTC
Try these 5 tools to boost your social connections
You’ve heard it before: Humans are social creatures, wired to connect. But how much do you really value connection? Do you treat it as a must-have or a nice-to-have?
In a recent TEDx Talk, Philadelphia-based social entrepreneur Nicole Kenney recounts that she was at an all-time low about 7 years ago. Young and busy with her career, she was under “astronomical amounts of stress” and became emotionally exhausted and physically sick.
Help came from her aunt — and a supportive, multigenerational network of women in her life. Reflecting on that time, Kenney realized she had been deprioritizing connection, treating her friends and family “like a luxury, not a lifeline.”
That realization led her to create Hey Auntie!, a digital wellness platform and community that connects Black women across generations. Hey Auntie! helps women tap into the healing power of connection, especially intergenerational connection.
The “power of connection” may sound like a catchphrase used by the wellness industry. But, there is rigorous research on the health benefits of social connection and the detrimental health effects of social isolation, especially for the brain and mind.
For example, research shows that the number and quality of close friendships is the best predictor of physical health and well-being, surpassing lifestyle factors like diet and obesity. The frequency of social engagements also predicts mental health and well-being, life satisfaction, trust in community, and feelings of happiness.
On the other hand, social deprivation — of the kind many of us experienced during the pandemic — can be harmful. Research on the impact of social deprivation on the elderly suggests it negatively affects cognition and mood, psychological and physical well-being, cardiovascular health, and longevity. For example, a new study from U.S. researchers found that socially isolated adults were 28 percent more likely to develop dementia over a nine-year period.
So how can you combat social isolation and create connections — across ages and stages — that nurture your brain, mind, and body?
Here are 5 tools — some new, some familiar — that are harnessing digital technology to help you build relationships:
- Hey Auntie! - Join a social network with a purpose. This digital wellness platform and community is designed to help Black women thrive in a culturally safe and competent environment by connecting them to a multigeneration network (online; USA)
- Generations Over Dinner (or Lunch) - Take the challenge: How many generations can you bring to the table, from Boomers to Alphas? This free global initiative aims to promote intergeneration dialogue and combat ageism through dinner and conversation. (Online or in-person; Global)
- SAGE Table - Share a virtual meal with other members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies. The initiative aims to create intergeneration connections to combat social isolation and loneliness, especially among LGBTQ+ elders. Participants in another SAGE program promoting intergenerational contact reported greater well-being and positive mood. (online, National in the USA)
- Meetup.com - Connect locally with people of all ages who share your interests. Sure, this social media platform has been around for a while (since 2002), but it is still innovating. During the pandemic, for example, Meetup launched Campus Community to help college students connect with their peers and network for career opportunities. (Online or in-person; Global)
- Eventbrite - Through The Social Connection Project, the global event company is searching for “practical and research-based solutions” for social isolation and loneliness, particularly among young adults. Eventbrite is supporting independent research on how live events impact social connection. While the results aren’t in, there’s no reason to wait to attend — or host — your next event. How to Host a Mental Health Event with Eventbrite is a helpful guide if you aim to make a difference in women's brain health.