5 Ways to Combat Loneliness and Build Deeper Connections, According to Experts

Humans are social by nature and keeping up with our friends, coworkers, and neighbors makes us happier and healthier. In fact, research has shown that strong relationships are the key to lasting happiness over a lifetime. Dr. Laurie Santos, a Professor of Psychology at Yale University and host of the podcast, The Happiness Lab, explained at the Future of Health She Media Co-Lab during SXSW that we are “social primates.” That doesn’t mean scrolling on a phone or being on a Zoom call, but rather interacting in real life with other people she noted during the Keep Your Friends Close & Your Health Closer panel, sponsored by the United Explorer Card and moderated by Laurinda Rainey, Managing Director and General Manager of United Airlines Cobrand at Chase.

“There’s a lot of evidence to suggest we get positive emotion from talking to other people, even strangers on a train,” says Dr. Santos. “There’s also a lot of evidence to suggest that when we don’t do this, there are psychological and health costs to that.” A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) points out that more than one-third of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely. Similarly, 30 percent of Gen Z and Millennials are suffering from loneliness and depression since the pandemic began. But as Dr. Santos notes, loneliness is something we all experience at one point or another, whether you’re a new mom or living in a different city. “So, if we can find better ways to connect, that’s going to be something that can help us psychologically,” Dr. Santos says. Below, read what our panel of experts had to say about building deeper connections and combating loneliness.

Tina Wells, entrepreneur, best-selling author, and speaker talks about the importance of having a group of “friendtors” in her book The Elevation Approach. “The most important thing you can do is to identify who those people are,” says Tina. “You need associates, ‘friendtors’ and advisors, and other people that help round out your tribe so that you can feel balanced and live your life in harmony.”

During the panel, Michael Tennant, author, keynote speaker, creator of Actually Curious, and recipient of a 2022 Pharrell Williams Black Ambition Prize, recalled a time when he didn’t know himself enough to understand the internal shifts that were happening as he was entering different life stages. This in turn impacted his ability to make meaningful friendships. His advice? Bring intentionality into assessing who you are today, how you feel, and how different environments and relationships react to you today.

As loneliness has gone up, trust levels have gone down. And while trust can be hard to build up, the thing to remember it can be done. “The key to doing that is being vulnerable,” says Dr. Santos. “We have a misprediction of being vulnerable,” she adds. “We think we might be oversharing, but if you look at the research, people feel special that you share with them. We have to let other people be vulnerable to us, but we also need to be vulnerable to other people.”

“Oftentimes, the emotion that’s on the other side of being vulnerable is shame,” says Michael. “But being able to feel that emotion of shame and sit with it, maybe even have the confidence and vulnerability to go to that person and talk about it, opens up the ability to heal through that difficult emotion. And it opens up that ability for the other person as well.”

Harmony is the idea that every piece of your life can work together for you. “It requires you to sit with yourself and figure out what’s a priority for you and then you figure out how to have those things,” says Tina. Harmony can look like many different things to many different people. Some find harmony in using their Chase United Explorer Card to travel with friends while others find harmony through connection but also spending quality time alone. No matter which bucket you fall into, harmony can be achieved every single day—you just have to make it a priority in your life.

To further explore the power of empathy, connection, and friendship watch the entire panel video above.

This paid article was created by SheKnows for Chase United.

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