The Power Of Connection

mental health Apr 09, 2024

Spring is here, and with it comes longer days, more sun and an opportunity to come out of winter hibernation and reconnect. On the heels of a 2023 Surgeon General Advisory on the epidemic of isolation and loneliness, this idea of connection has become more and more of a hot topic. In today's fast-paced world, where screens often dominate our interactions and busy schedules can leave us feeling isolated, prioritizing meaningful connections is more vital than ever.  

In alignment with this push for connection, MTV Entertainment’s 4th annual Mental Health Action Day is centering around just that – empowering people to spend 1 hour connecting with family, friends and community. Simply Bee is proud to be a part of this movement with our family-friendly community walk coming up on May 16th - we invite you to join us! 

As we gear up for this event, let’s take a moment to dive a bit deeper into the theme of connection - focusing on its significant impact on mental health and a new strategy for supporting and connecting with loved ones.  

Why Connection? 

Research consistently highlights the profound impact of isolation and loneliness on mental health. Studies have shown that prolonged isolation can lead to heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. When we're cut off from meaningful social interactions, our brains interpret it as a threat to our survival, triggering the release of stress hormones like cortisol. Over time, this chronic stress response can weaken our immune system, disrupt sleep patterns, and even impair cognitive function. Here’s a surprising statistic that really illuminates just how harmful loneliness can be: According to a 2017 study, lacking social connection is as dangerous as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day (Holts-Lunstad, Robles & Sbarra).  

On the other side of the coin, research also illuminates the transformative power of meaningful connection on mental health. When we engage in authentic connections with others, our brains release feel-good neurotransmitters like oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine – also known as the "happiness hormones." These neurotransmitters not only uplift our mood but also promote feelings of trust, belonging, and security.  

So why is this all so important? Overall, connection acts as a buffer against the negative effects of stress and strengthens our resilience in the face of challenges. Connection protects us – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  

Fostering Connection Through ASK 

In a technological world that can feel so isolating, how can we move towards connection? 

True connection happens when we are intentional with the people and relationships that are most meaningful to us. When you reach out to connect with your loved ones, you will naturally feel connection in return!  

While this idea feels obvious, it can be difficult to know how to tangibly practice connection in everyday life. In partnership with MTV Entertainment & Mental Health Is Health, ActiveMinds created a campaign to empower people to connect with friends using the acronym ASK –Acknowledge, Support, and Keep In Touch. This strategy is a simple yet impactful way to intentionally connect with your loved ones. Let’s break down each letter and some ways to implement them in your own relationships.  

Acknowledge: Create a supportive space by letting them know you’re here for them 

Acknowledgment lets a friend or loved one know that you are there for them, that you hear them and most importantly that they are not alone – all of which are essential elements of connection! It starts with giving someone your full attention, being present with them in the moment, and listening actively to their thoughts and feelings. Here are some ways you can acknowledge someone:  

  • “I’m here and I’m listening.” 
  • “I appreciate you sharing that with me.” 
  • “Tell me more about...” 
  • “That sounds really challenging – I understand why you feel that way.” 
Support: Validate their feelings and ask what they need 

Support looks different in every situation. The most important part is to let a loved one take the lead in sharing what they need. Ask questions using a curious, nonjudgmental approach, giving your loved one space to tell you what would be most helpful for them. Here are some ways to show support: 

  • “Is there something I can do for you right now or in the future?” 
  • “I am here for you and am ready to support you when you’re ready.” 
  • “Is there a barrier you’re experiencing that I can help you overcome?” 
  • “Are you open to _____?” 
Keep-in-touch: Check back in regularly and consistently 

Consistency is a key factor in intentional connection – because real connection happens over time! Keeping in touch and following up with loved ones makes them feel not only safe and loved, but also valued. Schedule time to check in, hang out and see how they are doing – during the ups and downs alike. Here are some ways to communicate keeping in touch: 

  • “I’m thinking of you today. How’s it going?” 
  • “I wanted to follow up and see how ____ is going.” 
  • “How are you feeling today?” 
  • “I’d love to see you ____. Are you free?” 

Stay Connected 

As you move through this season, we encourage you to check in with your loved ones and intentionally prioritize connection. Acknowledge their experiences, be there to support them as they need, and keep in touch consistently. Find the people and experiences that link you to joy and purpose and make them a part of your everyday life. A little connection really does go a long way! 

If you’re local to Lake County, Illinois, we would love to connect with you at our 4th annual Mental Health Action Day Walk & Ice Cream Social on May 16th! This event is all about moving our mental health culture from awareness to action – together. Learn more & register here! 

Check out this ASK Connection Pocket Guide for some reminders on how to use ASK with your loved ones! 


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