Cultivating and strengthening social support networks has been consistently associated with significant mental health benefits. The protective role of social support against mental health disorders is particularly associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety. Social connections can act as a buffer against the negative impact of stressful life events. Analysis of numerous studies has demonstrated a robust link between social relationships and mortality risk, suggesting that individuals with stronger social ties experience improved mental health. Moreover, a 2007 study investigated the role of social support in mitigating the adverse psychological effects of trauma, providing evidence for its positive impact on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) outcomes.*
Building and maintaining relationships takes work and commitment. Relationships need to be nurtured. The core foundations of a relationship are the ability to identify each other’s needs, trust and respect, spend quality time, boundary setting, and healthy communication.**
Make time for those you care about. This can take the shape of a phone call to friend or family member who doesn’t live nearby. You may want to think about scheduling regular calls in order to strengthen your connection. If you have friends and family nearby, make an effort to spend quality time together
Perhaps you need to expand your social support network. There are a lot of ways you can achieve this goal, many of which also involve engaging in other activities that can improve mental health. For example, you could regularly attend a class, join a book club, or volunteer with an organization working on a cause that is important for you. If you’re a parent or caregiver, you could attend child-centered activities that allow you to meet other caregivers. Story hours at local libraries are a great way to meet other caregivers who may also be looking to bolster their social network.