Social Connection Defined

What Is Social Connection?

When researchers refer to the concept of social connection, they mean the feeling that you belong to a group and generally feel close to other people. Scientific evidence strongly suggests that this is a core psychological need, essential to feeling satisfied with your life.

Indeed, humans are a profoundly social species; our drive to connect with others is embedded in our biology and evolutionary history. It begins at birth, in our relationship with our caregiver—and the effects of this relationship seem to reverberate throughout our lives. When we’re cared for as children, we’re more likely to have healthy, secure attachments as we get older.

What’s more, the pleasures of social life register in our brains much the same way physical pleasure does, and our knack for social connection is reflected in some of the most basic ways humans communicate—by subtle uses of our voice, facial expressions, and sense of touch. Scientists believe we are essentially wired to connect with other people because natural selection favored humans with a stronger propensity to care for their offspring and organize into groups.

“To the extent that we can characterize evolution as designing our modern brains, this is what our brains were wired for: reaching out to and interacting with others,” writes neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman in his book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect. “These social adaptations are central to making us the most successful species on earth.”

What are the Limitations?

Featured Articles

Why Practice It?

Decades of research suggest that the quality of our social ties might be the single biggest predictor of our well-being.

Social connections are sometimes called “social capital” for good reason: They are a valuable resource in life, creating moments of positivity and fun, supporting us through good times and bad, and exposing us to new ideas and new people. If we cultivate healthy connections, the research promises a longer, happier, and more prosperous life. 

“Resonant relationships are like emotional vitamins, sustaining us through tough times and nourishing us daily,” writes Daniel Goleman in Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships.

Here are some of the research-backed benefits of social connection:

Featured Articles

How Do I Cultivate It?

Although we are wired to connect with others, we don’t always prioritize social connection in the midst of our busy lives. No matter who you are, there are likely ways that you could grow your social network, build deeper connections, or cultivate healthier relationship habits.

Here are some specific, science-based activities for cultivating connection from our website Greater Good in Action:

Social connections are tied up with other keys to well-being. Cultivating gratitude, empathy, altruism, compassion, and forgiveness will not only enhance your personal well-being but also benefit your relationships at work and at home. Here are some more tips for having healthier social connections.

  • Meditate with someone: It could help you feel more social closeness and be more open with others.
  • Figure out your attachment style: If you have commitment, trust, or attachment issues, you could significantly improve your relationships by understanding your attachment style and trying to develop a “secure” one.
  • Listen to music together: Singing and listening to music raise our oxytocin levels, and research suggests that families and peer groups are more cohesive if they listen to music together.
  • Practice the art of “hygge”: the Danish concept of cozy, warm, drama-free time together, which might explain why Denmark often ranks among the happiest countries in the world.

Featured Articles