Social Connection on Mental & Physical Health

Part of my job at FÜM is doing medical research to help educate our team and bring education to you guys about natural health and related topics. However, when I dove deeper into the topics of smoking, addictions and health, I felt like there was more information that needed to be shared than the usual medical research. Yes, the scientific facts are great, and they help us understand the medical research backing natural health remedies. However, science doesn't always drive our behaviours and decisions. Our emotions do. So this lead me to the question, what does the heart need?


Addiction is a strong word. Our society has tagged so many harsh connotations and stereotypical behaviours to the word, addiction. Addiction is more than just the extreme cases like drugs and alcohol. So many of us have addictions to simple pleasures like shopping, eating, and to our phones. Social media is our "human connection." Our self esteem and self worth revolves around the number of likes we get on a photo. It's weird to think that today, we are the most connected society we have ever been. Our modern technology has allowed us to "connect" with people thousands of miles away from us, in an instant. Ironically, studies reveal that the number of close friends that the average American believes that they can call on in a crisis, has been steadily declining since the 1950s. While the amount of floor space an individual has in their home has steadily increased. This seems to be a metaphor for our culture, we've traded friends for floor space, we've traded human connection for technology. As a result, we are one of the loneliness societies there has ever been. Personally, I found this alarming and eye opening.


After reading research from brilliant doctors, and listening to Ted Talks looking for answers on addictions, I noticed that they all had a common denominator. Human health relies on authentic human connection. I came across an interesting study that supports this. In 2000, Portugal had the worst addiction problem in Europe. The standard method to treat addicts was not working. They would punish, shame them and label them as criminals, thus creating barriers for the addicts to reconnect with society. Statistically this wasn't working. So the Portuguese government decided to try something different. In 2002, Portugal legalized all drugs and displaced the money originally put into disconnecting addicts to spending it on reconnecting them with society. The government did this by implementing a program to create jobs for addicts; they gave micro-loans for addicts to start businesses and gave companies incentives to hire addicts by paying for half the wages. The goal was to make sure that every addict in Portugal has a reason to get our of bed in the morning. As a result, according to the British Journal of Criminology, by 2016 drug use dropped by 20%, as well as overdoses significantly decreased. When the addicts were asked about the new system, they said as they rediscovered purpose, they rediscovered bonds and relationships with society, which decreases the desire to go back to the substance they were addicted to. Swiss-English journalist and writer, Johann Hari concluded that Portugal is great proof that, "the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection." 


Of course addiction is a strong word and may not apply to everyone in the traditional sense. However, we all have some form of repetitive behaviour that is part of our normal functioning and can be destructive. I believe that the statement above can be applied to many contexts, especially to our health. A major key to health is human connection. I was personally moved by Portugal's method for healing their country through encouraging human connections. A major aspect of FÜM's mission to Redefine Health is to nurture and create meaningful relationships. We believe that togetherness is important for our health. 


I hope this inspires you as much as it did for me. We want to encourage you to Redefine Health by fostering genuine connections with others. You can start today. Choose to talk to the people around you while waiting at a doctor's office or siting on the bus. Ask your cashier how their day is going at the grocery store. Call the friend you haven't talked to in a few months or years. Prioritize your time by setting your phone down and being present. Take the time you have to invest in the people around you and be conscience about opportunities to find connection in your day-to-day activities. A simple way to start this is putting away your phone when you're walking in public, look at people, smile at them, engage with the beautiful world around you. After all, it's good for your health :)   


social media and mental health




Jocelyn's passion to help others drives her work here at FUM.  Jocelyn uses her research knowledge to bring information to the FUM Family on how to improve health. She graduated with a degree in Business Management and Organizational Communication from University of Ottawa and currently lives in Calgary, Canada.


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