Ask Joy: The Importance of Connections

Note from the Editor:
This article was kindly written for the SDC by retired psychologist/ member @Joy Straw.

‘A key to healthy ageing is having strong social connections, not a pill, food, or exercise, but something that makes a strong social connection that makes a significant difference to our body, mind, and spirit. Connecting renews our body, sharpens our mind and fills our spirit.’ — Mayo Clinics.

An excellent book on the topic is Healthy Ageing, written and published by the Mayo Clinic.



Connecting can be as simple as talking to your local barista, chatting with somebody at the bus stop, or just smiling at people. Anxiety is a worldwide problem that comes from a loss of connection and interaction.

‘People are often surprised by the literature that shows a correlation between social contact and enormous health benefits’ — Dr Amit Shah (Geriatric and Palliative Care Specialist).

Dr Shah goes on to say that the quality, duration, and nature of your relationships seem to matter the most. Interacting with others is an exercise for your brain and creates cognitive flexibility. We need to continue to make new connections and stay connected in the relationships we have.

Connecting with other people can have a variety of meanings. It might be to form an emotional connection to another person or simply to interact on a basic level. Connections are the emotional interactions that are positive, supportive, and healthy. Connecting with others involves creating an emotional and social bond. Such bonds can help people feel like they belong and promote physical and mental wellness www.verywellmind.com



Putting time into your relationships can help you feel connected, boost your energy, and ultimately, help you keep a healthy headspace.


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A cuppa at home with a friend can be a cost-effective option. Image Credit: Shutterstock



Ten tips to help you build and strengthen connections with people
  1. Be your authentic self. You can’t go wrong being yourself.
  2. Respect people's boundaries. No means no.
  3. Stay focused on the present. Yesterday has passed, and tomorrow is yet to come. There is only the here and now.
  4. Move past the surface level. Have a meaningful conversation at a deeper level than ‘How’s the weather?’. E.g. ‘How are you today?’ or ‘You look a little sad, can I help?’
  5. Share the conversation. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
  6. Be a good listener. See number five.
  7. Schedule your time. Nothing will happen if you do not make time.


How can we increase our connections?

Hearing Aids
—You need to be able to hear people in order to connect with them. People who use hearing aids have a higher life expectancy. Increasing your connection is essential.
Get out of the house – Relying on technology to order our groceries and check in with others isn’t nearly as effective as going out of the house and chatting, interacting, or just smiling. Human contact is essential for mental health. If you know somebody who is ill or with a serious illness take some biscuits and sit and talk in their home. We often don’t ‘see’ those who are housebound, and that isolation can be crippling mentally.
Actively look for opportunities to connect —Schedule it, adopt a pet, join a walking group, do water aerobics, talk to your neighbour, volunteer, connect spiritually, take a class.
Reach out — An offer of help will start a conversation. Offer help where needed and ask for help when applicable.
Volunteer – By helping others, you can be drawn into an existing community.
Wellness Check – Knock on the door to see if someone is okay. A simple text. ‘Can I get you something at the shops?’
Learn to read people—Not just to say hello but to observe, ‘You look a little sad/upset/tired,’ to start a conversation.
Learn to really listen to people – Intimacy comes from respect, trust and hearing what the other person is actually saying.
Join an existing group—U3A (University of the Third Age), Probus, The Men’s Shed, and Connected Women are already existing groups that offer a wealth of like-minded people.



Healthy relationships are super important for mental health. Spending time with people you care about and who care about you can help you feel connected and supported.

We know relationships aren’t always easy, and starting new ones can often be scary. But here is the thing: the more you work on your relationships, the stronger they get. Strong relationships can give you support when you need it and provide a sense of belonging and community. When you spend time connecting and supporting others, your mental health and well-being can improve, too.


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Do you know your neighbours? Image Credit: Shutterstock



Research shows that working on relationships and connectedness boosts energy, improves your sense of belonging, helps you relax, decreases anxiety and helps you feel supported.

It’s easy to mind your own business. It takes a little more effort to mind a community, to connect and find your people. Finding something in common with someone is what helps us connect and makes it all worthwhile.

If you have a topic that you think might be of interest to us all, please let me know. You can either send a message below or directly to April. Look after yourself. 🥰

From the Editor:

Do you have any suggestions for building connections? Do you go to the same coffee shop everyday for a chat?

About the author: My name is Joy Straw, and I’ve been a counsellor and (now retired) psychologist working with couples and individuals, as well as children in crisis, for over 30 years. I am a widow with two children and three grandchildren and have recently moved to a retirement village and am loving life again.

Interested in reading more from Joy? You can find all her articles here.

Looking for immediate support? Here is a list of free mental health helplines.

You can ask Joy a question here. If you’d rather stay anonymous, email your question to [email protected].

Want more articles like this? Becoming an SDC Rewards Member is the best way to show your support—from $5.99 per month.
 
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bunkum. every time a new neighbour has arrived i have taken something ie jam fruit, to them, to be met at the door thanked and that is that. Now my fruit can rot on the ground before i give again. also I have never been any of the houses.
 
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I am a person who is completely happy alone & since I have moved I have not spoken to anybody local. After all I am limited in my mobility so can't just pop next door any more. It is just as well that I am content with my own company.As an only child that is how I was brought up.
 
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I did that only once and the person involved became a pest. She would rock up unannounced at different times of the day several times a week. I gather people are lonely and I would help anyone but this got out of hand . So it put me off of doing it again with new people
 
bunkum. every time a new neighbour has arrived i have taken something ie jam fruit, to them, to be met at the door thanked and that is that. Now my fruit can rot on the ground before i give again. also I have never been any of the houses.
Jest I agree some neighbours can be difficult. It’s more about the process of connection than making lifelong friends. A simple smile and hello to waitresses or the coffee maker makes a difference. I’m sorry your neighbours are not friendly but communication is the key and believe it or not you are doing that here. Nice to talk to you Joy
I did that only once and the person involved became a pest. She would rock up unannounced at different times of the day several times a week. I gather people are lonely and I would help anyone but this got out of hand . So it put me off of doing it again with new people
I am a person who is completely happy alone & since I have moved I have not spoken to anybody local. After all I am limited in my mobility so can't just pop next door any more. It is just as well that I am content with my own company.As an only child that is how I was brought up.
To Nana and Barbara Im like you in that I don’t need a lot of people to enjoy my life and I’m happy alone as well. It’s great you find contentment with yourself. Also it is possible to have difficult neighbours and that’s when “lNo thank “you comes in. But I encourage you to communicate with people as the process itself is important. It’s one of the reasons groups like Lifeline, BeyondBlue , and local government have implemented phone conversations to encourage communication. SDC asst up the forum to help communicate with each other. I am also in a wheelchair but there are still ways of interacting with people at the pace you feel comfortable with. I love to bake and neighbours in my retirement village often pop by for cake and a chat. (I’m also supplying a large number of grandchildren with Carmel Slice😁) Take care and nice to communicate 💖Joy
 
We have been in the unfortunate position of having a neighbour from hell. Mr & Mrs grumpy bottoms spent most of their time finding ways to upset the tranquility of their neighbourhood in any way they could. The last thing I experienced was them reporting us to Council for a supposed illegal back deck. They hiked up a ladder and took photos of everything out there, including my line of washing. Another time, they reported to Council there were squatters in our house because we had not yet finalised the certification for our driveway. Didn't matter what the gripe, whether invented or not, ... It was one thing after another, after many others. Other neighbours were not immune to the Grumpy Bottoms treatment, even so far as having bricks thrown at their walls.
Ask them in for a cuppa ... not on your Nellie.
In the end, the council came to our home, to check out the objection, They ruled that everything was fine, then, I burst into tears because I just could not take any more. They said I should not worry from here on in and if it happens again I should contact police. It was that intrusive and cruel over the period of 2 years. I don't know what Council said to them, but a month or two after that, they put the house on the market. I could feel the huge sigh of relief all around me.
Things are different today. Many people are just too busy to be part of a friendly community. We have immediate neighbours who we always chat to, wave at and pat their dogs when the walk past. Other than that, not many people are interested in forming close connections.
As far as I am concerned, I am quite happy to be in my own company just so I can look around me and appreciate how fortunate a life I have.
 
Fee free to invite my attention seeking, pathalogical lying grandiose narcissist neighbour over any time for a cuppa, but I wouldn't rocommend it as you will hit the bitch over the head and end up getting yourself charged with everything she can lie about.
 
We have been in the unfortunate position of having a neighbour from hell. Mr & Mrs grumpy bottoms spent most of their time finding ways to upset the tranquility of their neighbourhood in any way they could. The last thing I experienced was them reporting us to Council for a supposed illegal back deck. They hiked up a ladder and took photos of everything out there, including my line of washing. Another time, they reported to Council there were squatters in our house because we had not yet finalised the certification for our driveway. Didn't matter what the gripe, whether invented or not, ... It was one thing after another, after many others. Other neighbours were not immune to the Grumpy Bottoms treatment, even so far as having bricks thrown at their walls.
Ask them in for a cuppa ... not on your Nellie.
In the end, the council came to our home, to check out the objection, They ruled that everything was fine, then, I burst into tears because I just could not take any more. They said I should not worry from here on in and if it happens again I should contact police. It was that intrusive and cruel over the period of 2 years. I don't know what Council said to them, but a month or two after that, they put the house on the market. I could feel the huge sigh of relief all around me.
Things are different today. Many people are just too busy to be part of a friendly community. We have immediate neighbours who we always chat to, wave at and pat their dogs when the walk past. Other than that, not many people are interested in forming close connections.
As far as I am concerned, I am quite happy to be in my own company just so I can look around me and appreciate how fortunate a life I have.
Hi Maria I’m sorry about your experience.my article is aimed at connecting with people you want to connect with , but not everyone fits that bill. It is very difficult when neighbours aren’t helpful and I’m actually writing an article about what to do when you are confronted with angry and/or aggressive people due to my recent experience with someone who is developing dementia and was very aggressive . This article suggests ways of connecting and communicating with a variety of people not just your neighbours and moving on if it is not appropriate for you. Nice communicating with you . Good luck and I hope the neighbour settles down. Joy💕
 
We have been in the unfortunate position of having a neighbour from hell. Mr & Mrs grumpy bottoms spent most of their time finding ways to upset the tranquility of their neighbourhood in any way they could. The last thing I experienced was them reporting us to Council for a supposed illegal back deck. They hiked up a ladder and took photos of everything out there, including my line of washing. Another time, they reported to Council there were squatters in our house because we had not yet finalised the certification for our driveway. Didn't matter what the gripe, whether invented or not, ... It was one thing after another, after many others. Other neighbours were not immune to the Grumpy Bottoms treatment, even so far as having bricks thrown at their walls.
Ask them in for a cuppa ... not on your Nellie.
In the end, the council came to our home, to check out the objection, They ruled that everything was fine, then, I burst into tears because I just could not take any more. They said I should not worry from here on in and if it happens again I should contact police. It was that intrusive and cruel over the period of 2 years. I don't know what Council said to them, but a month or two after that, they put the house on the market. I could feel the huge sigh of relief all around me.
Things are different today. Many people are just too busy to be part of a friendly community. We have immediate neighbours who we always chat to, wave at and pat their dogs when the walk past. Other than that, not many people are interested in forming close connections.
As far as I am concerned, I am quite happy to be in my own company just so I can look around me and appreciate how fortunate a life I have.
at least when you are a loner no one can blame you for anything. take care and keep safe. hugs.
 
AT least if you don't mix with the neighbours you don't get disappointed by their attitude towards things you feel are sacrosanct like fences & dogs. I have a Temu tee shirt that has the slogan on it that says" What a wonderful world it would be if people had hearts like Dogs." I tend to agree our dogs love us unconditionally.
 
AT least if you don't mix with the neighbours you don't get disappointed by their attitude towards things you feel are sacrosanct like fences & dogs. I have a Temu tee shirt that has the slogan on it that says" What a wonderful world it would be if people had hearts like Dogs." I tend to agree our dogs love us unconditionally.
Amen to that. Our two puppies are our lifeline to contented spirits.
We are currently in training so we can do walkies with mobility aids. That in itself is an exercise in patience.
Talking about fences and dogs, a little rascal next door has dug a great escape tunnel so he can get into our place and play with our pups. He is a pup as well. It's like a play date at the musters mansion . They act like I have injected them with steroids. I can only stand and watch, refill the hole and take him back to his hoomans after the play visits are over.
Always something to make you smile when you have fur babies in the house. I love the tee shirt.
 
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Hi Maria I’m sorry about your experience.my article is aimed at connecting with people you want to connect with , but not everyone fits that bill. It is very difficult when neighbours aren’t helpful and I’m actually writing an article about what to do when you are confronted with angry and/or aggressive people due to my recent experience with someone who is developing dementia and was very aggressive . This article suggests ways of connecting and communicating with a variety of people not just your neighbours and moving on if it is not appropriate for you. Nice communicating with you . Good luck and I hope the neighbour settles down. Joy💕
Actually, I get a lot from our SDC community.
I have always loved the written word, however, am somewhat put off by the full on assault on our senses with social media. SDC is a happy medium.
I don't have any problems with neighbours any more, am content in my own company, love my family, fur babies and still hold onto fond memories of special people who have passed.
One cannot ask for more than be able to say, I am content.
 

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