• Alisa

Creating a support system through connectivity

Updated: Jan 28

Personal support systems and a sense of belonging are vital tools for strengthening your mental wellbeing.

There are certain things you can practice to train your brain to think well. It’s like flexing a muscle – when exercised, each of these simple tools and techniques can strengthen your ability to take control of and enhance your mental wellbeing.

One of these tools is ‘connectivity’, which is about having meaningful relationships, creating and nurturing a support structure around you, and feeling a sense of belonging. Through actively seeking deeper connections and choosing a wide social network, we are more able to bounce forward and find ways to be content in our everyday lives.

Meaningful relationships

Brené Brown, a research professor in social work and human connection, states in her book Gifts of Imperfection that people are “biologically, cognitively, physically and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong.” When we aren’t connected to other people, we can feel isolated and undervalued, yet when we feel connected, our mental wellbeing is strengthened, reinforced and nourished.

There are billions of people on the planet, and even though we might interact with several people in our day, we can all still feel lonely and isolated from time to time. It’s when you actively engage with people, by putting down your phone, turning away from the screen and looking them in the eye, that you truly nurture and develop the relationship. Having meaningful connections is about being present.

Connectivity is a two-way street, so it’s vital that you're both giving and receiving. If you feel that a relationship with someone isn’t having a positive influence on your life, then make the conscious decision to distance yourself. It is ok to say no and to put yourself first.

Making a deliberate choice to only allow positive and encouraging people into your inner sanctum will help to raise your confidence, and improve your motivation and your resilience. Being around supportive people empowers you to bring about positive change for yourself and others.

Support systems

Once you’ve put energy into cultivating meaningful relationships, these people become a support system that you can lean on when you’re facing life’s complexities.

Drawing on and fostering your support network is vital, as it can bring you strength, wisdom and energy when you are feeling depleted. Positive people will cheer you on, hold you accountable in achieving your goals, and help you become the best version of yourself.

Having several strong connections across the many different areas of your life is also very important. This helps affirm your self-identity and broadens your perspective, while giving you a more holistic sense of where you fit in the world. It can also provide a sanctuary if something isn’t going well in another facet of your life. A well-functioning support system reminds you that you're contributing to the universe and that what you're doing is important.

Community and belonging

When it comes to belonging, our requirements will vary. It’s ok to want your own space and time to reflect, but knowing there are people to reach out to as your needs change can prove invaluable.

Creating a greater sense of belonging within a larger community can also be rewarding. Volunteering is a great way to increase your feeling of connectivity, and it is also associated with increased feelings of happiness, purpose and accomplishment.

Ultimately, we are hardwired to be social and interact with others. We are at our best when we surround ourselves with people who make us feel good, and in turn, we make them feel good too.

We come alive when we actively and positively engage with others – we laugh, we smile and we grow. Connectivity is vital to mental wellbeing and flourishing in life.

Overcoming loneliness

Michelle Lim is a lecturer in Clinical Psychology at Swinburne University and Chair of the scientific advisory committee ‘Australian Coalition to End Loneliness’.

"Loneliness hurts, and unfortunately it affects everyone at some point in their lives. As human beings are a social species, and loneliness can be detrimental to our health. People who are lonely are more likely to experience a variety of physical and mental illnesses, compared with those who are more socially connected.

"Learning to connect in a meaningful way can help combat loneliness and improve feelings of connectivity. The quality of the relationships we hold is far more important than the quantity.

"If you feel lonely and the thought of getting out there to connect with others is overwhelming, consider improving the quality of an existing relationship you already have, or perhaps turning a current acquaintance into a better friendship. Smaller steps – like making an effort to reach out to an old friend or strengthening an existing friendship – can be a less intimidating way to foster your connections with others."

Originally published on www.onelife.aiavitality.com.au on July 6, 2017.

Alisa Camplin is an Olympic Gold Medalist, in-demand Keynote Speaker, Corporate Ambassador, and Human Performance Consultant who delivers results-driven Resilience and Human Performance Training and Development Programs. Connect with Alisa.

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