“I've got a very strong network around me, which is really important.”
The connections you make through relationships, places, and social activities can build a safety net for your physical and mental health. Healthy connections with family, friends, partners and co-workers, and having a pet, are known to lower levels of anxiety and depression, and raise self-esteem.
If you are experiencing a mental health condition, you may want to avoid connecting with others. But this can make it harder to cope and recover. Connecting with your spirituality, culture, and the outdoors can also be a source of comfort and meaning if you’re facing challenges in your life.
Whether it's spending time with a friend, chatting to someone, joining a sports team, a choir or a group of like-minded people, going to a place of worship, or offering to help someone else, staying connected can help to keep you well.
A closer look
Connecting socially through creative activities can improve mental health
Dancing can increase self-esteem and reduce anxiety, depression, bodily aches and pains. Singing, especially in groups, releases the pleasure hormones in the brain called endorphins as well as oxytocin, which builds feelings of trust and bonding. Engaging in the arts in any way for at least two hours per week is linked with having good mental health. (Source 1) (Source 2) (Source 3) (Source 4)
If you feel lonely, you're not alone
Many people today claim they have no close friends or family to confide in. A recent survey found that 60% of Australians felt lonely despite many of them living with a partner or family member. (Source)
Connecting with the natural environment can restore mental health
Living in an urban environment can be noisy, overstimulating and rushed. However, people who have a garden or access to the outdoors, live near or visit parks and nature reserves have been found to sleep better and have lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. (Source 1) (Source 2)
As people get older, the risk factors for experiencing loneliness increase
When we feel socially isolated or excluded, we're more likely to have poorer physical and mental health. Visiting local community centres, libraries, or reading the local paper or the council website can be the first step in becoming more connected with other people and reducing loneliness. (Source 1) (Source 2)
Connecting with cultural heritage strengthens identity and wellbeing
Research suggests that people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds who engage with their own culture can improve their wellbeing, and have more positive emotions and stronger social connections. When kids are able to practise and share aspects of their culture, they feel good about themselves. It also helps them learn about and appreciate people’s similarities and differences. (Source 1) (Source 2)
My best friend still lives in Papua New Guinea, but we are in constant contact thanks to social media. We speak almost every day. He's been really supportive over the years.
One of the biggest things I've learnt over my life is how important love and acceptance is. Talking to others, and hearing them too, is a very validating experience.
I need to be around people, even though it's not easy at times. You get out of your own head that way.
You might find online and phone-based mental health resources helpful. Some suggestions are below. You can find more with our Search tool (opens in a new tab).