Creating a support system through connectivity
Personal support systems and a sense of belonging are vital tools for strengthening your mental wellbeing.
Alisa Camplin is Australia’s first ever female Winter Olympic gold medallist, a working mum and dedicated resilience and high performance consultant.All articles
There are certain things you can practice to train your brain to think well. It’s like flexing a muscle – when exercised, each of these simple tools and techniques can strengthen your ability to take control of and enhance your mental wellbeing.
One of these tools is ‘connectivity’, which is about having meaningful relationships, creating and nurturing a support structure around you, and feeling a sense of belonging. Through actively seeking deeper connections and choosing a wide social network, we are more able to bounce forward and find ways to be content in our everyday lives.
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Brené Brown, a research professor in social work and human connection, states in her book Gifts of Imperfection that people are “biologically, cognitively, physically and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong.” When we aren’t connected to other people, we can feel isolated and undervalued, yet when we feel connected, our mental wellbeing is strengthened, reinforced and nourished.
There are billions of people on the planet, and even though we might interact with several people in our day, we can all still feel lonely and isolated from time to time. It’s when you actively engage with people, by putting down your phone, turning away from the screen and looking them in the eye, that you truly nurture and develop the relationship. Having meaningful connections is about being present.
Connectivity is a two-way street, so it’s vital that you're both giving and receiving. If you feel that a relationship with someone isn’t having a positive influence on your life, then make the conscious decision to distance yourself. It is ok to say no and to put yourself first.
Making a deliberate choice to only allow positive and encouraging people into your inner sanctum will help to raise your confidence, and improve your motivation and your resilience. Being around supportive people empowers you to bring about positive change for yourself and others.
Once you’ve put energy into cultivating meaningful relationships, these people become a support system that you can lean on when you’re facing life’s complexities.
Drawing on and fostering your support network is vital, as it can bring you strength, wisdom and energy when you are feeling depleted. Positive people will cheer you on, hold you accountable in achieving your goals, and help you become the best version of yourself.
Having several strong connections across the many different areas of your life is also very important. This helps affirm your self-identity and broadens your perspective, while giving you a more holistic sense of where you fit in the world. It can also provide a sanctuary if something isn’t going well in another facet of your life. A well-functioning support system reminds you that you're contributing to the universe and that what you're doing is important.
Community and belonging
When it comes to belonging, our requirements will vary. It’s ok to want your own space and time to reflect, but knowing there are people to reach out to as your needs change can prove invaluable.
Creating a greater sense of belonging within a larger community can also be rewarding. Volunteering is a great way to increase your feeling of connectivity, and it is also associated with increased feelings of happiness, purpose and accomplishment.
Ultimately, we are hardwired to be social and interact with others. We are at our best when we surround ourselves with people who make us feel good, and in turn, we make them feel good too.
We come alive when we actively and positively engage with others – we laugh, we smile and we grow. Connectivity is vital to mental wellbeing and flourishing in life.
Michelle Lim is a lecturer in Clinical Psychology at Swinburne University and Chair of the scientific advisory committee ‘Australian Coalition to End Loneliness’.
"Loneliness hurts, and unfortunately it affects everyone at some point in their lives. As human beings are a social species, and loneliness can be detrimental to our health. People who are lonely are more likely to experience a variety of physical and mental illnesses, compared with those who are more socially connected.
"Learning to connect in a meaningful way can help combat loneliness and improve feelings of connectivity. The quality of the relationships we hold is far more important than the quantity.
"If you feel lonely and the thought of getting out there to connect with others is overwhelming, consider improving the quality of an existing relationship you already have, or perhaps turning a current acquaintance into a better friendship. Smaller steps – like making an effort to reach out to an old friend or strengthening an existing friendship – can be a less intimidating way to foster your connections with others."
A former world champion aerial skier, Alisa Camplin made sporting history in 2002 as the first ever Australian woman to win gold at the Winter Olympics. After 18 years as a global corporate executive, Alisa now juggles a mix of sport, business, consulting, charity and governance roles. No stranger to physical and emotional trials, Alisa runs Resilience and High Performance programs to assist others in achieving their full potential. Awarded the prestigious Order of Australia medal, Alisa is passionate about mental wellbeing and helping people thrive. The information in this article is general information only and is not intended as financial, medical, health, nutritional or other advice. You should obtain professional advice from a financial adviser or medical or health practitioner in relation to your own personal circumstances.
The information in this article is general information only and is not intended as financial, medical, health, nutritional, tax or other advice. It does not take into account any individual’s personal situation or needs. You should consider obtaining professional advice from a financial adviser and/or tax specialist, or medical or health practitioner, in relation to your own circumstances and before acting on this information.