Social Connections for Mental Health: Nurturing Relationships with Yourself and Others

by | May 21, 2024

Discover how social connections play a crucial role in mental health. Learn tips for fostering these relationships for better well-being.

Mental health awareness has gained significant traction in recent years, and rightly so. With increasing awareness comes the recognition of various factors influencing our mental health, one of which is social connection. Understanding the importance of relationships with yourself and others can significantly impact your mental well-being.

Humans are inherently social beings. Our need for connection is deeply ingrained and fundamental to our mental health. Studies reveal that strong social ties can lower the risk of mental health issues like depression and anxiety [1]. In contrast, social isolation and loneliness can have severe consequences, including putting us more at risk for mental and physical health conditions [2,3].

Fostering a Relationship with Yourself

As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you have the means and access to do, prioritize your own physical, emotional, and mental well-being before you support others, especially if you are in any kind of caregiving role or in a healthcare or service professions.

  • Self-Compassion: Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer a friend. Acknowledge your feelings and challenges without judgment. Remember, it’s okay not to be okay sometimes. Self-compassion is a powerful tool in maintaining mental health.
  • Mindfulness and Reflection: Spend time each day reflecting on your thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and journaling, can help you stay connected with yourself and manage stress effectively. These practices foster a deeper understanding and acceptance of who you are, which is crucial for mental well-being.
  • Self-Care Routines: Prioritize activities that nurture your body and mind. This could be regular exercise, healthy eating, hobbies, or simply relaxing with a good book. Self-care isn’t selfish—it’s essential for maintaining your mental health. Establishing a self-care routine can significantly improve your mood and resilience against stress.

Building Relationships with Others

  • Family and Friends: Strong bonds with family and friends are crucial. They provide emotional support, a sense of belonging, and a buffer against stress. Regular interactions, whether in person, over the phone, or through video calls, can significantly uplift your mood and enhance your mental resilience. A simple chat with a loved one can go a long way in fostering these essential connections.
  • Community Engagement: Being part of a community fosters a sense of purpose and connection. This can be through local groups, volunteer work, or even online communities that share your interests and values. Engaging in community activities provides a support network and camaraderie that enhances overall well-being. Consider joining a club, attending community events, or participating in online forums to expand your social network.
  • Professional Support: Sometimes, we need more than just a friendly ear. Therapists, counselors, and support groups can provide professional guidance and a safe space to share and heal. Don’t hesitate to seek out professional help when needed. Mental health professionals are equipped to support you through your journey, offering valuable tools and strategies for managing mental health challenges. In the U.S., hotlines and other resources are readily available, or you can call 988 if things feel too overwhelming

Taking the First Step

Research consistently highlights the profound impact of social connections on mental health, including significantly influencing the risk of mortality, underscoring the importance of fostering strong social ties [4]. Building and maintaining these connections might feel challenging, especially in our fast-paced world. However, every small step counts. You can start by reaching out to an old friend, joining a new group, or simply spending some quiet time with a close friend or family member. If you’re looking to expand on making connections, whether with others or within, consider the ideas below.

  • Hosting Dinner Parties: Inviting friends and family for a meal at home fosters a sense of hospitality and strengthens bonds. You may have seen my kitchen tour on Instagram where I share how challenging it can be living, working, and eating inside of a stereotypically teeny, tiny New York City apartment. That said, we have held a half a dozen gatherings over the years—be it potluck dinner, livestream parties, or game nights—with anywhere between 3 and 13 guests!
Image credit: Dina R. D’Alessandro
  • Community Potlucks: Everyone brings a dish to share, creating a sense of community and allowing people to try different foods and cultures. You might want to create a theme menu and ask everyone to select a recipe. (Click here for some ideas.)
  • Cultural Food Festivals: Participating in or attending food festivals helps people learn about different cultures and meet new people. Check out this list of current events near you!
  • Cooking Classes: Taking cooking classes together can be a fun and educational way to bond and learn new skills.
  • Shared Meals: Regular family meals or group meals provide an opportunity for deep conversations and sharing experiences.
  • Picnics: Organizing a picnic allows for a relaxed setting where people can enjoy food and nature together.
  • Food Drives and Charities: Volunteering at food banks or participating in food drives can bring people together for a common cause, fostering a sense of community and purpose.
  • Dining Out: Exploring new restaurants and cuisines with friends can be an adventure and a way to create shared memories.

Our Commitment to Ourselves and Each Other

Let’s commit to nurturing our relationships this month and beyond. Whether it’s reaching out to loved ones, engaging with your community, seeking professional help, or practicing self-compassion, each step towards stronger connections contributes to better mental health. Together, we can create a supportive, connected community that champions mental health and well-being.

By understanding and prioritizing social connections, we pave the way for a healthier, happier life. Let’s make mental health a priority, today and every day. why these connections matter and how you can nurture them for a healthier mind.

If it’s been a while since you’ve carved out time for a meaningful connection, let this be your reminder to do so soon. That said, not everyone has the access and privilege to prioritize mental health. If you are suffering from social isolation, please reach out for support. If you are able to give to others, please consider checking in on your loved ones or organizing a group gathering to help someone in need develop a strong network and enhance their mental well-being.


  1. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). The Science of Friendship. Monitor on Psychology.
  2. Loneliness and social isolation — tips for staying connected | National Institute on Aging. (n.d.).
  3. Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2), 227-237.
  4. Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLOS Medicine, 7(7), e1000316.


I’m Dina R. D’Alessandro, MS, RDN, CDN. I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in New York City, and I provide nutrition counseling to women.

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