Throughout this pandemic, we have been caught in this dilemma of social distancing from our family, friends, and colleagues. We have been encouraged and mandated in some parts to shelter in place in order to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Due to these restrictions, it has prevented you from socializing with friends in your favorite places like restaurants, pubs, and cafes. Instead, we must resort to other means for connecting with friends and loved ones: social media.
We are certainly fortunate in this day and age to have such advanced technology that allows us to use messaging applications on our phones, make video calls to our relatives, and to host video conference meetings with large groups in the comfort of your own living room. Although we must practice social distancing to remain safe and healthy, this should not prevent us from connecting with one another.
1. The Importance of Touch
Connecting socially and intimately is a human need for our health and well-being. Having contact with other human beings is what allows us to thrive as a species. Throughout the ages, there have been numerous psychological studies focusing on the importance of human contact. The absence of physical bonding and attachment as a child, some research claims, may lead to negative emotional development as an adult. Physical touch, studies show, sends a message of safety and trust. It has a calming effect on the cranial and cardiovascular systems. Less cortisol, the stress hormone, is released into the bloodstream when one practices physical touch.
Basic touch also calms an overactive heart providing a sense of ease thereby reducing high heart rates and blood pressure. When touch and connection are absent, one may display more behaviors of worry and hyper-vigilance which is stressful to the heart and brain. Unfortunately, this can lead to other prevalent health issues like heart disease and stroke.
2. Social Isolation
Using the strategy to social distance for some has been especially challenging. They may not have the luxury and privilege to have family and friends around them. Unfortunately, they may feel isolated, lonely, and depressed. Not only is there the lack of physical contact, but community get-togethers have also dwindled. If this is you, perhaps you relied on your job and other social networks to make connections with others. Maybe you are single and live alone so the intimacy you once knew through these opportunities has significantly reduced. If you continue along this trend of not connecting with others, this could create a downward spiral on your psyche. Before this happens, take advantage of the tools we literally have at our fingertips to stay connected.
3. The Digital Connection
If you are fortunate enough to own a smartphone or computer, you may know that there are many ways to stay connected to friends, family, and work. Beyond texting on your mobile device, you can download applications to play games, sing songs, or just talk about your day with others. Use multi-person video chat applications to take yoga classes, have a meeting with your co-workers, or have a virtual cocktail hour with your best buddies. The possibilities are endless.
Even though all of these tactics do not involve physical touch, the result remains positive. The simple fact that you can see your friends on live conference calls and hear their voices triggers the same areas of the brain that affect calm, ease, and trust.Laughing, singing, and playing games in a virtual chat room can have the same effects as actually being in the same room with your friends. You'll experience joy, happiness, appreciation, and gratitude even while seeing your family on a screen. It is better to have these digital modalities to connect than to have no connection at all.
4. Make A Telephone Call
Even if you're not technologically savvy and do not have the fancy devices like webcams and mobile phones, you can still connect. Pick up the telephone and call friends you haven't spoken to over the years. Chat with your cousins or grandmother that you'll miss seeing at this year's family reunion. Call your dad on Father's Day. Hearing the voice of loved ones can set your mind at ease; you'll feel rest-assured that everyone is doing ok, even if you can't be with them.
Reminisce about times gone by: your college days, the company picnic last summer, taking the grandkids to the water park. Remember the times that made you laugh and enjoy life. These are all feel-good moments that can be re-lived to trigger those same hormonal responses as having in-person contact. Smiling and laughing, even over a video chat, is soothing and comforting to your heart and brain.
5. Reach Out to Your Neighbors
Are you close to your neighbors, but you're practicing social distancing? While staying on your respective porches and yard areas, gather outside to talk over a coffee or lemonade. Maybe there is a neighborhood musician who would gladly perform an outdoor concert for your cup de sac. There are many ways to have safe physical distance and maintain relationships with your neighbors who could also benefit from the social connection.
These are unprecedented times and we need to be creative with how we can remain in contact with our outer circle of colleagues and friends. This is a time to not distance ourselves completely. This would be unhealthy for our psyches and could diminish our wellbeing. This is a time for reuniting with others in unconventional ways. If you're alone and feel isolated, reach out through social media and join a chat group. With the evolution of the internet over the years, it is easy to find others that have similar interests. You may have the opportunity to make new friends from around the world chatting online about crocheting, gaming, baking, golf, photography, etc. In our technical age, we really have no reason to stay disconnected.
The irony of this whole situation is that it may bring us closer together as human beings. It has allowed us to step aside from the hectic lives we are so used to. We are staying at home and spending more time with our families. Even if alone, you've been able to take stock on what is really important to you. Reaching out virtually to friends and family has become a priority. There is great value in reuniting with long-lost friends and distant relatives. It will rejuvenate your lonely spirit and enhance your appreciation for human contact.
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