• Denise Lazenby

Why social isolation is the new smoking

Belonging to a group or community brings meaning and purpose that makes us stronger and more capable of dealing with day- to-day challenges to our mental wellbeing, says Act-Belong- Commit’s Amberlee Nicholas. It also provides a strong social network to help out in times of need.

“That mantra that ‘friends are good medicine’, is actually scientifically true,” she said. We know the more social connections one has, the greater the contribution to their mental health and greater their ability to cope with stress and trauma.

“And also that loneliness can make people feel anxious, increase depressive symptoms, reduce self-esteem and impacts on overall outlook on life.” In recognition of its importance, promoting wellbeing by connecting with community has been chosen as a core theme for WA Mental Health Week 2017.

“As humans we are naturally wired to need and seek out social connections, as belonging is a basic human need originally related to survival,” Ms Nicholas said. “We know back in caveman days groups that banded together were much more likely to survive natural disasters and predators than those wandering on their own.” In Western society today, more people lived alone than ever before. Many Australians didn’t even know their neighbours, she said.

“We are busier and people are so focused on saving for the next holiday or having a bigger, better house that we have lost our way a bit in terms of what is actually really important and what makes us healthy and happy.

“Screen time is also distracting people from their relationships.” Rather than engaging meaningfully they were being distracted by technology, especially smartphones, she said

Act-Belong-Commit is a comprehensive health promotion campaign that encourages the WA population to act to protect and promote their own mental wellbeing.

Full article published here https://mentalhealthweek.thewest.com.au/october-2017/essential-connections/

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