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The Psychological Benefits of Sharing in Community

Published 7 Jan 2021 • By Gilda Teissier

Humans are bio-psycho-social beings that learn and grow thanks to the society in which they live. People are so in need of contact with others that since the beginning of time they have developed ways to stay connected. It is thanks to this social character that humanity has properly developed and survived.

So, how can this "needed" closeness impact one's overall well-being? How can sharing in an online community about your journey with your health condition bring you psychological benefits?

We tell you everything in our article!


The Psychological Benefits of Sharing in Community

Anthropological studies show that hominids (primates) may have begun to develop a form of spoken language because of their need to share their ideas. Research has also shown that humans are innately compassionate and empathetic. These facts underline the way humans are wired to share information with each other, help one another and feel understood. 

This raises the question: if these interactions are a "need", what parts of the human body are affected or privileged thanks to social interaction? Psychologist Susan Pinker says that “as a result of social interaction dopamine is generated, which gives us a little high and kills pain, it’s like a naturally produced morphine”.

Social connection is also known to bring us comfort and to be a key component of solid relationships, as well as strong psychological health. Even the most introverted people seek social contact from time to time. Social support, essentially, means having a network of people that you can turn to in times of need. These needs might be emotional, instrumental and/or informational

It is said that thanks to social support people are able to thrive during hard times. Mental health professionals often recommend having a group of loved ones or peers that are going through the same as you, in order to better deal with a crisis, anxiety or stress. Stress has been shown to have serious health consequences, ranging from reduced immunity to increased risk of heart disease. Being surrounded by caring and supportive people helps us to see ourselves as being better able to cope with the stresses that life brings.

On a more scientific note, it has been shown that brain function is altered by depression and loneliness, both of which are consequences of a lack of socialisation. Research has also shown that interaction with others stimulates our brain. Social contact improves memory formation and recall, and shields the brain from mental decline and neurodegenerative diseases. Lower rates of anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem, greater empathy, and more trusting and cooperative relationships are the results of social connections. Strong, healthy relationships can also help to strengthen your immune system, help you recover from illness and may even prolong your life.

Loneliness has dramatic consequences on health. It leads to disrupted sleep patterns, elevated blood pressure and increased stress. People without social support are five times more likely to experience a mental illness such antisocial behaviour, depression and suicide. Solitude and loneliness are not the same. Feeling lonely is a problem, but being alone may not be. Many people live alone and have happy, fulfilling lives, the key is knowing when and with whom to share it.

How can a community can help you?

There are two fundamental aspects of the social world that contribute to health: social support and belonging to a community. Being part of a community can have a positive effect on mental health and emotional well-being. Participation in community life provides a sense of belonging and social connectedness. It can also offer additional meaning and purpose to everyday life.

This contact can be physical, which is most encouraged in order to achieve better psychological and physical results, but it can also be remote through any type of device. It is true, and not only because of COVID-19, that sometimes it is very hard to go out or to find like-minded people near you. This is where online social support networks come in. 

A recent study found that for many people, communicating with others – through online forums, social media, or in person – can help them to achieve a healthier mind-set, improved self-esteem and greater enjoyment of life. Having people to talk to and depend on can help reduce the risk of mental illness.

Having access to or providing advice, guidance and information is the kind of support that people with chronic conditions need the most, as it provides insight and perspective on the illness. Illness very often bring a sense of isolation and of dislocation from the past and the future. Being ill, facing a health issue or being a family carer can challenge one's personal identity, and some people may feel embarrassed or even stigmatised by their condition. Knowing that others are tackling similar problems and learning how these people deal with difficult issues can reduce these feelings of isolation, bringing a sense of belonging to a group and reassurance that one's experiences and reactions are “normal”.

Sharing online with like-minded people can also help to make important decisions or act on big life changes. With this kind of support, people feel less anxious or stressed about the problems related to their illness. Hearing about others’ experiences can induce feelings of compassion, so that one becomes less self-absorbed and gains a broader perspective. By having a strong social support network both online and offline, you are more likely to receive the kind of emotional and informational help you need when you really need it.

At the same time, for people with rare conditions, who are undergoing unusual treatments or who are geographically isolated, the internet may be the only place to find support and so is especially important.

The idea of social connection is to share one's time, experiences and stories with others, and to also to listen in return. Gradually, you will build a group of people in your life who care about you, and who you also care about. Both your mind and body will reap the rewards. 

Conclusion:

It is a fact that everyone needs sometimes needs his or her own space and being socially active is not something that everyone can do all the time. However, at least occasionally, socialising or just being in contact with other people through the internet can allow you to get out of your own head and gain fresh insight about what is going on at home and in the world.

Being happier, learning better, having lower stress levels and increased overall physical well-being should motivate you to either get out and mingle with others or open your browser and start talking with like-minded people.

And always remember that social support is not a one-way street. In addition to relying on others, you can also serve as a form of support for many people that need it on the other end of the internet. It is a win-win situation.

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Share your thoughts and questions with the community in the comments below!
Take care!


avatar Gilda  Teissier

Author: Gilda Teissier, Content and Partnership Manager

Gilda Teissier is the Content and Partnership Manager at Carenity. She has a double mission.

On the one hand, she is responsible for defining and implementing the content strategy for all Carenity sites, always... >> Learn more

6 comments

lesmal
on 13/01/2021

Thank you for an interesting article that explains the art of being in a community online to a key! 

I would be lost without social media, without my Facebook page, and without this and many other forums, I participate in both for the wellbeing of myself and others in the community. I was diagnosed with epilepsy at 16; during those days we were discriminated against and faced heavy stigmatism for several years, both through lack of medical and general knowledge of the condition itself. This turned me towards research, which made me approach epilepsy organizations and offer advice, support, and assistance through voluntary admin/editing. This gave me the confidence to face my epilepsy, find others out there with the same condition, give support, and socialize through email and then on the internet.

From there, I found Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks and it started the ball rolling. I was always passionate about advocating and educating people with epilepsy, due to my own experiences and memories, so decided to open up my own motivational and inspirational page.  From what I thought would be a failure, this site picked up great support on social media, found more 'likes', and made me get more involved with Admin and settings of running groups. I now do Admin for at least 15 groups on Facebook, have 2 profiles on Twitter, continue with voluntary editing for Epilepsy South Africa (although I'm based in Northern Ireland), and am an Ambassador for Carenity UK, which I love doing all at the same time. 

This all taught me to be a stronger person, to face the challenges each day might bring, and at the same time give advice to and support the community in the medical sphere I am passionate about and love. It made me more independent, gave me faith and hope to face the world of today, and be the person I am now. Let's take away the stress, pressure, depression, and mental health problems one day at a time, find an interest to share with others; you can do it too! 

Anyone with epilepsy wanting to visit my page please feel free to do so: http://www.facebook.com/epilepsymotivequotives 

robjmckinney
on 16/01/2021

While clearly as humans we are herd animals and most have a need for community. For me being a member a Facebook etc. for many years it has not been essential, giving up Facebook some years ago. But this site has a uniqueness as to the mysteries and lack of information from within the NHS. Clearly the internet is the font of all human knowledge and gives the individual access to wider like never before.

Yes I do see the great social benefit and believe we are intelligent enough to identify the accuracy or opinion provided by others. So I only see a benefit of social media for many in society providing community and information like never before. Illness one of our greatest concerns and fears can be reduced by information and personal experiencies of this community. The problem of serious life threatening illnesses is the loneliness of your plight as your family or friends cannot relate to your circumstances or feelings. This site can provide through its common experiecies can provide the important reassurance and honest information of this diffircult very individual road we are taking, stay safe!

BAZWHEAT
on 16/01/2021

Excellent articles.

nineteen_gale
on 16/01/2021

A very interesting article. For some people, who are on their own, have no relatives and coping life with difficulty, Carenity community is an outlet. At least they they can relate their problems with like people. It gives them some comfort that they are not alone, that there are people in the community to reach out to. 

maddoglady
on 16/01/2021

An interesting and thought provoking article. I personally use Facebook and am in a What's App group, however can easily go for weeks without using either.

I think the many online forums have become a lifeline for many during lockdown, particularly with the number of zoom classes for just about anything. 

My biggest issue with online support groups, and some are better than others, is the preachy 'I know more than you ' attitude that some adopt. When I was first diagnosed, I was told not to look up information online, because there is a great deal of misinformation. Family and friends, can offer love and support but often can't understand because they aren't going through it, which leads people to look for advice, support and guidance from other sources.

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