Social Connection and Wellness
Considering External Well-being
What exactly is the often-mentioned “wellness”?
According to Cambridge Dictionary, it’s defined as “the state of being healthy, especially as the result of deliberate effort.” However, it seems elusive and hard to grasp. On the other hand, the Global Wellness Institute defines it as “actively pursuing activities, choices, and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.” It appears that wellness is not just about being healthy but the attitude of actively seeking health.
Wellness is commonly believed to have multidimensional aspects beyond physical health. The basic elements include physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and environmental dimensions. Unlike traditional health, which focuses on the body’s internal aspects, wellness encompasses elements from one’s external surroundings, such as society and the environment. In the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a basic survey on people’s connections conducted by the Cabinet Office in Japan revealed that about 40% of respondents experienced feelings of loneliness. With the problem of social isolation, concerns about issues such as increased suicide rates, divorces, and domestic violence have also risen.
During the summer vacation season, when we may experience changes in relationships, such as distancing from schools or workplaces and getting closer to family, it’s a good time to reconsider the connections between society and our own well-being.
Where Has the Motivation to Build Connections Gone?
Two years ago, when I became a full-fledged working adult, teleworking was already prevalent. As a result, I had many opportunities for online communication, and now I’ve become quite accustomed to this style. During the era of teleworking, the importance of good relationships in the workplace has become even more apparent.
According to a survey by McKinsey & Company, those who feel a good sense of human connection in the workplace are twice as likely to report receiving high support from leaders and colleagues compared to those who don’t.
Furthermore, there are benefits for companies, such as reduced turnover and increased knowledge sharing. According to Gallup, an American research company, the cost of hiring one employee can be up to twice their annual salary, making the benefits of good relationships significant.
On the other hand, during the pandemic, about 75% of working individuals reported that their connections with others have decreased. Particularly interesting is the trend of reduced motivation to build new relationships. I have personally felt this tendency myself, as I have become a little less comfortable building relationships with new people over the past two years.
Amidst this situation, I am currently staying at my wife’s family home in the Philippines for about two weeks. Living with about ten people in one house feels very refreshing, and the time spent talking with family and sharing meals and drinks together is enjoyable. As opportunities to meet people have decreased, I can’t help but feel a sense of excitement similar to the “nervousness of making friends” that I felt as a child.
Healthy Mindset Starts from Home
“Where should we all go together this summer?”
With my brother’s study abroad in Taiwan approaching, my family is desperately trying to create lasting memories together.
According to an international study on children’s happiness published in Pediatrics, researchers surveyed over 37,000 children in 26 countries and found that adolescents who reported strong family bonds also perceived themselves as successful in life. This “success” was evaluated based on six factors: self-acceptance, purpose in life, positive relations with others, personal growth, environmental mastery, and autonomy.
Dr. Robert Whitaker from Columbia University, who led the research, states that while the link between strong family connections and lower risks of issues like substance abuse has been reported before, the association with “success” is a new finding.
To foster a healthy self-awareness in children and help them have a positive outlook on life, what actions within the family are important?
According to the article, the ideal opportunity to deepen relationships is during dinner. Dr. Whitaker suggests, “Create an environment where children can speak freely without worry and adults genuinely take an interest in their conversations without judgment.”
Recently, during a casual conversation with my brother at the dinner table, he said, “When I think that I have a reliable big sister to rely on, not taking on challenges feels like a big loss.” His reason to take on the world left a strong impression on me.
In the VUCA era, where the surrounding environment is rapidly changing, forming an unwavering sense of self within family connections and having the courage to face challenges will likely support “mental well-being” in such times.
As we become more accustomed to dealing with the new virus, the atmosphere in Japan seems to be pushing for some slight exploration. This summer, I want to reappreciate the connections with the closest society, which is our family.
"The Unexpected Benefit of Reconnecting" With Old Friends
In an experiment on reconnecting with long-lost acquaintances, it was found that recipients of messages or gifts felt more gratitude than the givers’ self-assessment.
The Role of Colleagues in Achieving Work-Life Balance
Those who receive support from colleagues, such as in private conversations, are more likely to provide support to their partners at home.
Could Supporting Others Improve Your Own Health?
People (especially women) who believe they can provide social support to friends and family have significantly lower rates of chronic inflammation compared to those who do not.