The Redesigning Wellness Podcast

236: Rebuilding Social Connections with Natalie Kerr Ph.D., Social Psychologist

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Connecting socially is an innate human need and one that was practically eliminated during the pandemic. For the past two years, we turned to social media, Zoom calls, and Netflix for our main sources of connection. Now that we’re going back into the office and gathering in larger groups, how can we ease back into being with each other and rebuild social connections? 

Podcast guest, Dr. Natalie Kerr, is a social psychologist and a Professor of Psychology at James Madison University. Dr. Kerr enjoys sharing psychological science to help others improve their lives. Her current research focuses on the social psychology of loneliness, including interventions to help people feel more connected and less lonely. 

In this episode, we discuss why social connection is so important and how we can come back together without extreme awkwardness. Dr. Kerr talks about loneliness and how the solution is counter to the advice of “just put yourself out there”. We discuss how nature can help build social connections and why we don’t reach out to people when they are going through hard times. Finally, Natalie leaves us with a warning about marketing programs to ease loneliness.

Episode Highlights:
  • Social Connection isn’t just something that makes us happy. It’s essential for our physical health. Our sense of connection or disconnection is one of the key predictors for how long we’ll live.
  • 22% of people reported feeling lonely often or always.
  • Employees who report having close relationships with co-workers are more engaged and more productive.
  • Mindfulness meditation has been shown to make people less lonely.
  • The liking gap – The discrepancy between how much you think other people like you and how much they actually like you. We tend to underestimate that.
  • Acknowledge that social connection is a health behavior. Not just something we do after tackling the important things in life. It is the important thing, and it needs to be prioritized a such.
Links Mentioned:

Dr. Kerr’s blog posts on Psychology Today

Dr. Kerr’s Faculty Page

Full Bio:

Natalie A. Kerr, Ph.D. is a social psychologist and a Professor of Psychology at James Madison University (JMU). She earned her M.A. in Experimental Psychology from Hollins University and her Ph.D. in Experimental Social Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her current research focuses on the social psychology of loneliness, including interventions to help people feel more connected and less lonely. Her research has been published in respected scientific journals such as the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Personality and Individual Differences, and Social Influence. Her research has also been mentioned in O, The Oprah Magazine, Scientific American, and the book The Narcissism Epidemic

Dr. Kerr enjoys sharing psychological science to help others improve their lives. To this end, she writes a blog at Psychology Today, which has received nearly 1.5 million views and is frequently featured on their main webpage. She also leads retreats for people who want to deepen their connection to themselves and others.