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The importance of Social Connection

08.1.2018

When you’re as busy as most of us seem to be these days, it’s all too easy to deprioritise looking after your own well-being. Mindfulness training unlocks a number of benefits, each of which can be achieved when you learn systematically how to become more consistently aware of yourself, those around you and the wider world with an attitude of openness and curiosity.

 

We know that mindfulness training leads to higher levels of emotional intelligence and to reduced stress levels at work and during various life stages. But a recent study, aptly named Present with You, investigated whether mindfulness training could potentially increases the feelings of social connection and strengthens subsequent relationships.

 

As leading providers of mindfulness training, we were intrigued by this and had to delve deeper into the question of mindfulness and social connection. Could being focused, present and aware really help nurture connections with the people around you and prevent the all too common reality of social anxiety?

 

Social connections

An introduction to the study

The study aimed to answer one question that many of us in the field have asked ourselves

about the benefits of mindfulness training: does it actively reinforce better social connections and in turn reduce negative emotions?

 

Here’s what the study’s authors, Kathryn Adair, Barbara Fredrickson, Laura Castro-Schilo, Sumi Kim and Stephania Sidberry found:

 

“We hypothesized that, relative to an active control condition, participants randomized to a mindfulness meditation course would experience gains in feeling socially connected. Further, we expected these gains would be mediated by boosts in decentering and reductions in negative emotions and that, as a result of greater social connection, participants would report greater positive emotions. Ninety-four community member adults were randomly assigned to a 6-week Mindfulness Meditation course (n = 51) or a 6-week active control course (“Health Promotion”; n = 43). Participants were assessed for social connection, decentering, and emotions at pre- and post-training.”

 

Decentering is a technical term used in psychological theories to describe the ability to stand back from the stream of your experience, allowing you to see that your troubling thoughts are ‘just thoughts’ – they’re not facts. They’re the way you think when you’re anxious, for example, they’re not the way the world actually is.

The findings

Intriguingly, the study found that decentring, an important component in both mindfulness and cognitive therapy, resulted in greater levels of social connection. It also found that the increased social connection felt by participants paved the way for greater positive emotions, a key trait that may in part explain why mindfulness training, and the increased awareness it brings, has such a positive impact on mental well-being.

Another secret to treating social anxiety?

It is thought that 1 in 10 adults in the UK suffer social phobia, more commonly referred to as social anxiety disorder. Categorised as generalised and non-generalised, social anxiety disorder can show itself as social interaction fear, performance fear or observation fear, three areas of anxiety that can have a direct impact on how sufferers lead their everyday lives.

 

The findings in the study Present with You will be welcome news for those looking to take control of social phobia, as well as individuals wishing to rediscover the present moment. Taking a mindfulness-based approach to managing social anxiety will not only better prepare individuals who experience challenging responses to social situations, but in time it may emotionally empower them to help overcome such anxieties altogether.

 

Looking to embrace the benefits of mindfulness at work to help the individuals at the heart of your organisation? We provide a variety of workplace mindfulness training courses. Contact us on 01223 750460, or rachel@mindfulnessworks.com for further details.