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Sustainability is about ecology, economy and equity.- Ralph Bicknese

Steps to Happiness: Social Connection

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Hands-fo-Friendship-Version-2Sustainable Happiness Week is upon us! This will be our first post about the factors contributing to an overall sense of personal satisfaction. The topic today: a crash course in relationships’ impact upon happiness.

A 2012 survey by the National College Health Association found that 58.4% of college students felt “very lonely” at least once in the past 12 months. Unfortunately, this high statistic has been fairly stable over the past five years.

Despite the crowds of people around campus, college can be a lonely time. Students move away from their families and social supports into an unfamiliar environment. Many students feel isolated among their peers. And this is a difficult feeling to handle, much less express to others. For this post, we will give strategies to handle loneliness and promote social connections.

Being alone isn’t the same as feeling alone. Some people need a certain amount of solitude to feel centered. But if you feel like you are alone a lot and cannot change that, it can lead to feelings of profound loneliness.

As social creatures, we need personal relationships for a sense of belonging and identity. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, feeling connected to others is important for your happiness. Just being around others, especially those you know and like, can boost an individual’s mood and reduce stress.

On the other hand, one should choose their friendships with care. Psychology Today says, “Studies show that we are happiest when we are around those who are also happy.” It is the same when we are around unhappy or overly-critical people. Relationships that make you feel negatively about yourself or cause a lot of strain on your life may not be worth keeping around.

So what can you do? First, seek out people you enjoy being around, and watch their smiles become contagious.

Above all, students are especially encouraged to engage with their community to form connections.  Reaching out to others, regardless of fears of rejection, is the best way to ward off feelings of isolation. For on-campus residents, Peer Advisers and Resident Life Coordinators are placed specifically so you have someone to go to. And off-campus students still have a whole network of people in their classmates, professors, and administration. Classes also offer a whole group of peers that already have something in common with one another. Just sitting next to the same person and saying “Hello” everyday can improve one’s sense of affinity towards others.

If you feel like you cannot talk to others about pressing issues in your life, the Student Counseling Center always has professionals to listen and offer advice.

Remember, loneliness is not a defect or a sign that you are unlikable. It can stem from many causes, including big life changes or prolonged periods of stress. If you are feeling lonely, that does not mean something is wrong with you.  Also, loneliness does not last forever.

Ways to help prevent or reduce loneliness:

  • Eat with others when possible. Invite others to join you for lunch or coffee.
  • Sit with new people in class and introduce yourself.
  • Find a hobby that will introduce you to others who share your interests.
  • Practice getting to know others and letting them know you.
  • Try new things! Go to a campus event, invite your roommate to go try Ethiopian food or paint-balling, sign up for a local Zumba class — whatever sounds interesting and fun!
  • Remind yourself that you are loved.
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Author: Sara Kenning

Sustainability Assistant at Seattle Pacific University's Office of Facility and Project Management

2 thoughts on “Steps to Happiness: Social Connection

  1. Thank you for this post! I transferred to SPU just this September, and have felt really lonely all year. Sometimes it just feels so overwhelming that I don’t want to leave my dorm – which makes me feel even lonelier. But I’m going to try your suggestions, and see if any work out!

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    • I’m glad this was useful to you, Anon. Please keep us updated about your experience with how our tips work out for you. I know that SPU is a terribly difficult school to transfer into, and having a rough time adjusting to the culture is unfortunately to be expected. But you can do it, especially if you reach out to other students and staff around. Best of luck.

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