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The importance of social connection

The importance of social connection

Your challenge: Reconnect with REAL people… 

It could be as simple as smiling at a passerby, helping an elderly neighbour with their lawns, or going out for coffee with friends where you all agree to put your phones away. Whatever the case, try to make it a daily practice to form a new habit.

As human beings, we are inherently social creatures and social groups provide us with an important part of our identity. Meaningful connection with other people has so many benefits:

  • It boosts your mental health Friendships can increase your feelings of belonging, purpose and overall happiness. They can also reduce levels of stress and improve your sense of self-worth and confidence.
  • It helps you live longer A better quality and quantity of social relationships has been linked to lower disease risk and increased life expectancy.
  • Your quality of life and health may improve It is not just eating well and exercise that helps you feel good and enjoy life, being around others helps too!
  • It decreases your risk of suicide There are a number of factors that put people at higher or lower risk for suicide. One of these factors is connectedness. Relationships can play a crucial role in protecting a person against suicidal thoughts and behaviours.

Overcoming the challenges of the world we live in

Modern living and busy lives have resulted in many people feeling disconnected, lonely and lost. It is easy for our to-do lists to get so long we don’t feel like we have time to catch up people face to face. Plus, even when we are with people,  we may not always be fully present. It can be so easy to be distracted with our phones pinging while we are talking to people or emails coming in while we bath the kids or pay at the grocery check out.

We need our phones in order to be connected – for working, to make plans, for acquiring news, etc – but is our digital reliance resulting in mindless scrolling and procrastinating at work? These motions may be an automatic behaviour we don’t even realise we are doing. In order to keep your mental health and wellbeing in check, it’s important to regulate your digital time, including social media.

Reconnecting

This month’s challenge is to find a way to reconnect with people in your life, ideally in person, and to check in with your use of technology to see if a bit of a ‘detox’ is in order.

Make it happen

We are mindful that when participating in this challenge, you will need to consider the current lockdown rules in your city. Below we give suggestions that cater to those in lockdown, as well as those where regulations are more relaxed.

Connecting socially when you AREN’T in lockdown

  • Reach out to someone you haven’t seen for a while
  • Say hello to as many people as you can. From the woman who serves you coffee to the cashier at the grocery store, and your colleague or co-worker
  • Suggest having lunch with someone in the office you wouldn’t normally get a chance to interact with
  • Make a conscious effort to smile genuinely and look people in the eye
  • Ask how that person is and really listen to the response
  • Try an activity at a community centre, take a class, go for a walk in the mall, your neighbourhood or around your office
  • Spend quality, device-free time with your kids or parent/s
  • Have dinner with your family
  • Arrange a walk in nature with a friend who you don’t see often
  • Go out for coffee or see a movie with friends, family or workmates
  • Ask friends or family members to help you organise regular, fun activities
  • Read stories to your children, or ask them to read one to you
  • Consider volunteering. Giving our time to others boosts feelings of productivity and value, and it’s a great way to make new friends with similar interests
  • Visit someone elderly.

Social connection when you ARE in lockdown

  • Reach out to someone you haven’t seen for a while, call them or video chat
  • Say hello to other people taking their walk – make sure you’re wearing maintaining the appropriate distance
  • Suggest having lunch with a friend via video chat
  • Make a conscious effort to smile genuinely and look people in the eye
  • Spend quality, device-free time with the people in your bubble – crack out the board games or let your inner child take the driver’s seat and play some kids games
  • Eat meals with the people in your bubble
  • When you venture outside, try to connect with nature and be mindful of the beauty around you
  • Ask friends or family members to suggest some regular, fun activities
  • Read stories to your children, or ask them to read one to you.

For your digital ‘review’ and detox

It is so easy to browse the web, send messages, take photos and answer emails at the touch of a button. In one way, this technology has allowed us to feel like we are more ‘connected’, but having face-to-face interactions can be more meaningful.

  • Check your settings and see how many times you pick up your phone and day and set a goal to halve it
  • Put limits on the apps on your phone that you feel are time wasters for you
  • Log out of your social media accounts so you have to type your password in every time, making it less tempting to just ‘check in’
  • Put an ‘out of office’ reply on when you sign off for the afternoon or evening, so you have that boundary in place.

Read here to learn additional ways to digitally detox

First published: Sep 2020

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