The world can be an overwhelming place when we feel we are on our own. Thank goodness we are not; we have communities and personal connections. The laughter shared over a meal, the empathetic listening during tough times, even the simple hellos exchanged with neighbours bring a lightness to life. These moments remind us that we are never truly alone, that we are part of a larger social connection. We can walk this journey of life together, hand in hand.
The sense of belonging is a deep human need. Says Arouba Kabir, counselling psychologist, Bengaluru, “Our minds are wired in a certain way where these connections play an important role and help us not feel lonely.”
A 2001 study, which focussed on social connections and mental health, was published in the Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine. It confirmed a strong link between social connections and mental well-being. The study highlighted that social connections can have a direct effect on mental health. It was found to mitigate the adverse effects of stress. Additionally, the research indicated that social support has the potential to reduce stressful reactions to difficult events and situations. Feeling supported during such events can lead to a more positive and less threatening perspective on the situation. This ultimately reduces negative behavioural or physical reaction to stress.
Naturally, there is a lot to gain from social connections. Some of us find it easier than others to bond with people. But it need not be that hard. Happiest Health shares five effective ways to deepen social connections with help of expert insights.
Active listening & genuine interest
Active listening is the foundation for building strong connections. It involves giving your undivided attention to the person speaking, showing genuine interest in their words, and understanding their perspective. Kabir says, “To actively listen, maintain eye contact, avoid distractions, and use verbal and non-verbal cues to indicate your engagement. Ask open-ended questions that encourage them to share more about their thoughts and feelings.”
By showing that you value and respect their opinions, you create an atmosphere of trust and understanding in the relationship.
Regular communication & check-ins
Consistent communication is key to strengthening any relationship. According to Jaipur-based psychologist Mehal Sharma, this can be as simple as a brief text message asking how their day is going, a weekly phone call to catch up, or scheduling monthly coffee meetups or even a simple voice note. It is just a matter of staying connected and involved in each other’s lives. When you show consistent interest and care, it conveys to others that the relationship holds importance for you.
Empathy, Understanding, and Social Connections
Empathy is the ability to step into another person’s shoes, comprehend their emotions, thoughts, and outlook on a particular situation. Empathy is the cornerstone of genuine human social connection. Kabir explains, “When someone feels heard and validated in their emotional experience, it fosters a sense of closeness, trust, and emotional safety.” says Kabir. She adds that this, in turn, elevates the quality of the relationship, creating a safe environment to be vulnerable in.
According to Sharma, there is a need to ensure that we acknowledge other people’s emotions without passing judgment. Otherwise, it is not really empathy. Providing comfort and support, both emotionally and practically, further strengthens this bond, demonstrating care and compassion.
Shared activities & experiences
Engaging in activities or experiences together can significantly strengthen bonds. The key is doing something you both enjoy. It builds a sense of togetherness and lets you understand each other better. The more you share these moments, the closer you become.
“Whether it is a hobby, a workout routine, a cooking class, or volunteering for a cause, shared activities create shared memories and common ground,” says Sharma. Such experiences provide opportunities for meaningful conversations, laughter, and a sense of camaraderie, deepening the connection.
Authentic Vulnerability for Social Connections
Building trust and closeness involves being authentic and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. According to Kabir, sharing your thoughts, fears, and aspirations openly with others and allowing them to do the same helps everyone be authentic, without fear of judgment. By being true to yourself, you invite deeper connections based on mutual understanding and acceptance.
“It is okay to share when you’re happy, sad, or worried. When you are honest, others feel comfortable being honest too,” says Kabir. This honesty creates a strong bond where you support each other through ups and downs. Trust grows, and relationships become stronger when authenticity is at the core.