Resilience 101 - The power of Social Connections

resilience social connections Sep 04, 2022

We’re back with our fourth post in the Resilience 101 Series. If you’ve missed any of the prior entries, you can check them out here:

  1. Resilience 101: Journaling as a coping and inspiration tool
  2. Resilience 101: Meditation as a Resilience Practice
  3. Resilience 101: Goal Setting and Mindset

Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. 


Today’s post focuses on the power and impact of social connections to enhance our wellbeing and enhance our resilience. Social connections refer to “the feeling that you belong to a group and generally feel close to other people.” Social connections can take many shapes: relationships with family, friends or coworkers, looser connections to peers, or connection to more formal support systems like mental health professionals or community organizations.


The science of social connections for resilience

You might have seen some of the extensive research on the impact of strong social connections on promoting health, wellbeing and guarding against cognitive decline and depression. There’s also compelling evidence that strong social connections help improve resilience “by helping an individual cope with and recover from difficult situations and adversity and improving an individual's positive mental state.” (Cao et al., 2020; Yildirim and Tanriverdi, 2020).

For some, maintaining a strong social network might feel easy, but that experience is certainly not universal. According to one study, “one-third of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely, and nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated.” 

The good news? You can build a stronger social support system. Read on for our top tips and strategies to cultivate stronger social connections with your existing network, build new relationships or connect casually in your everyday interactions. 


Foster deeper and more meaningful connections with your existing network

The first opportunity is to deepen your connections with those you spend the most time with: your spouse, your closest friends, your children. You can spend a lot of time with people without truly connecting. How can you build stronger bonds with those you see most often? 

  1. Dig deeper in your conversations - Take your conversations to the next level by changing up your topics. Try conversation cards to explore things you may not know about each other. We love Convers(ate)’s cards or BestSelf.Co’s discovery decks, spanning a variety of topics like Ice Breakers, Intimacy Cards for couples, and little talk cards made specifically for kids. You can also try the Greater Good Science Center’s 36 questions for increasing closeness. Try them out at dinner or in the car. 
  2. Go on an adventure together -The same routines can lead to the same behaviors. Try doing something completely new together: go on a hike, try stand up paddleboarding, try snow-shoeing. Put yourself out of your comfort zone a bit and connect over the discovery of new interests. 
  3. Mix up your downtime - If your routine is Netflix and Chill, try something different with your downtime.  Explore playing a board game, or a creative activity. Go for a walk after dinner. Read a book together. Complete a puzzle. Try new ways of connecting!


Strengthen loose connections

Relationships with friends and family you don’t see every day can fizzle over time without energy and effort. The last few years of the pandemic made it harder to keep friendships thriving. Try one of these strategies to breathe new life into waning connections. 

  1. Plan a get together - If you feel comfortable, and if it’s possible, plan an in person get together. Go on a hike, take advantage of the last few weeks of summer with a barbecue or picnic, attend a festival or outdoor concert!
  2. Virtually connect - Most people are over zoom happy hours, but you can spice it up by participating in a shared virtual experience! Try a virtual magic show, wine tasting, or performance. 
  3. Spice up the content - If texting is your primary way to connect, how about trying a different kind of conversation? The discovery deck topics can help here too!


Cultivate new connections

  1. Join a club, association or activity - Finding a local club, nonprofit or hobby group is a great option to connect with others that have shared interests. The opportunities are endless: Local women’s groups, books clubs, athletic clubs. Check out meetup for an abundance of community organized events and groups. If there’s nothing that sparks your interest, you can turn your attention to virtual clubs (for example, an online reading club) to find your people. 
  2. Learn something new - Being a beginner together can help forge quick bonds. How about signing up for a class? Language courses at a community college, cooking classes at a local shop, or perhaps a pottery course? Whether you do a single instance class, or commit to a sequence, learning together can be a great way to make new connections. 
  3. Contribute to a cause - Volunteer for a local or virtual nonprofit. There are so many ways to leverage your energy and talents to support causes that need it. Clean up a trail with other nature-minded friends. Participate in outreach efforts to mobilize the community. Join the PTSA for your kid’s school. 


Connect Casually

  1. Make an effort to genuinely connect - Every day presents dozens of opportunities to engage. What would it be like to genuinely connect with a stranger? Perhaps it’s the barista at your favorite coffee shop, or the cashier as you’re checking out. 

Your challenge - create an experiment

Social connection matters: to your wellbeing, to your resilience, and to your happiness. No matter where you are on the social connection spectrum, there are small actions you can take today to cultivate greater connections and boost your resilience. 

When it comes to trying something new or making changes, we are huge proponents of designing experiments, rather than simply implementing changes. Why? Because an experiment explicitly takes off the pressure of doing something new. It gives you permission to abandon or change course if what you’re trying isn’t working for you. It shifts the default away from just adding more things to your plate, and doing them in perpetuity. Your time is finite and valuable, so if what you’re trying isn’t working for you, you should give yourself permission to stop. 

Your challenge is to create a social connection boosting experiment. Decide on one specific thing you will try for a predetermined amount of time. Will you try conversation cards at dinner for a week? Will you sign up for one cooking class? Will you try dropping into a local book club twice? Choose something specific, and define how long you’ll try it for. 

Then define success. What would cause you to do it again or keep it up? What’s the bar you need to meet in order to continue with this experiment? (By the way, having fun or enjoying it is a great bar). Check back in with yourself and decide on the path forward. You’re encouraged to try something else if it doesn’t work for you!


A superconnection opportunity two weeks away…

Joining an amazing group of women at a Digital Detox & Renewal retreat is another excellent way to forge really meaningful connections. If you’ve been reading the Mindfulness Incubator Blog for a while, then you already know about our exclusive upcoming retreat. We have two spots left for our September 16-19th dates in New Mexico, read all about the retreat here! The wonderful connections forged were a highlight for all participants at our June retreat. We hope you can join us!


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