I have written before about the many benefits of social connecting. I refer to it as a super resiliency! From a neurological standpoint, we are all wired to connect to both survive and thrive.
Connecting to each other improves our physical well-being. We now have much research evidence to show that social connectivity leads to longevity of life. In fact, isolation is as much a predictor of a shorter life as smoking, alcoholism, obesity or lack of exercise.
Our social connections also have a positive impact on our psychological well-being. They help us to emotionally regulate and have been shown to help alleviate both depression and anxiety. Social connectivity helps us to feel a sense of purpose and belonging, both powerful human motivators.
So, how do we ensure we are not depriving ourselves of this ever important need to connect during a time of social distancing? Here are just a few ideas for connecting safely.
Virtual Parties: Find some novel ways to make use of today’s technology. Host a movie night, where everyone streams the same movie from their home and chats via text. Host a paint night, where friends try to create the same painting at home and share pictures of the results. You can find painting tutorials online or stream an old Bob Ross episode. Start a book club and meet using a video conferencing app. My sisters, mother and I tried this once, we didn’t talk much about the book, but connecting was fun.
Community Service: Just because many aspects of our lives are on hold, doesn’t mean the needs in our community go away. Not all volunteer work requires group contact. Call a local community center or shelter and ask what is needed. You could deliver food items to shut ins, help clean or repair outdoor spaces, or organize a donation drive for needed items in short supply. Connecting to the community in this way can alleviate feelings of isolation and provide a sense of purpose that puts things in perspective.
Phone a Friend: Most of us will be using our phone more to stay connected to those we are closest to. But maybe this is an opportunity to reconnect to people we wouldn’t normally phone. We all could probably make a list of family and friends we don’t speak to on a regular basis for no reason other than time. Well, now you have an excuse to give some of those people a call. Make a list of old friends or relatives that might be delighted to hear from you and challenge yourself to calling one or two a week.
Be a Good Neighbor: I am fortunate to live in a neighborhood with front porches. We are accustomed to having porch to porch conversations that keep us connected to each other. Even if you don’t know your neighbors, now might be a good time to make an introduction. Stop and wave when you are both outside and ask how they are doing. Check on each other, especially the elderly. Let them know if you are making a trip to the store or if you have extra supplies of something. Creating a sense of community in your neighborhood keeps us all a little more connected.
Write a Letter: When was the last time you received a letter from someone? For me, I think it was college. Sure, it seems like an unnecessary thing of the past with so many other ways to communicate available. But I must admit that there is something special about receiving a card or letter in the mail. If a letter seems like too much of a challenge, how about a card? Check the calendar, there are lots of birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and holidays coming up. Since we might not be able to celebrate in person, a tangible card is a way to convey a meaningful sentiment.
Nature Walks: Connecting with nature is a different type of connecting. I’m not suggesting that squirrels and trees can substitute human conversation. But, getting out in the fresh air and connecting to the living world around us can make you feel more a part of a shared environment.
Remember, social distancing does not have to mean social detachment. Now, more than ever we need to make the effort to connect.
What ways will you stay connected?