Humans crave connection. It is essential to the human experience. However, social interaction has become more difficult since facing a global pandemic. It’s been two years and we are still trying to find a sense of normalcy in our virtual world.
We’ve all experienced the need for connection. Even the most introverted people need connection, but connection looks different for each person. In research conducted by Cigna, it is shown that a lack of social support and infrequent meaningful social interactions is a key determinant for feelings of loneliness. The pandemic brought stress, change, fear, and isolation. Surveys conducted by the Mayo Clinic show a major increase in the number of U.S. adults who report symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia during the pandemic, compared with surveys before the pandemic.
The need for connection and community is ingrained in humans down to the deepest level. We see this throughout history with the dependence on one another to survive external threats and difficult environments. With a strong support system, people can overcome challenges more easily and maintain wellbeing. Even though we are no longer hunters and gatherers, we are still social beings. Although it may look different today, the fundamentals are the same, humans need each other to survive.
However, we are living in such a time of disconnect and many of us are struggling to satisfy our need for connection and are actively seeing the effects of it. The use of modern technology has been revolutionary in our ability to remain connected with family and friends that we do not see in person so online relationships feel like they should be satisfactory, but it’s just not the same. While it is a great tool it cannot replace our means of connection. An article published by the Atlantic shared the same sentiment by saying that “while remote technologies might be a necessary substitute for in-person work during the pandemic, they are inadequate to meet our human need for contact”.
Now more than ever, we must be intentional and put some creativity into how we stay connected and take care of ourselves. We want to be mindful of the safety of ourselves and others but let’s talk about ways we can improve connection during the pandemic to help improve our health.
1. Get outside
Consider going for a walk with a friend or taking a lunch break in the park. Look for other people who may also be looking for an opportunity to get outside. You may know someone personally or you could connect with people through platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook. This promotes physical activity which is helpful to your health, and it also provides a safe opportunity for human connection.
2. Send someone a handwritten note or a care package
This is a great way to stay connected with someone you may not be able to physically be with. This may include family, friends, or even a coworker that you know may be struggling. This action can have a major impact in that person’s life and it brings purpose to yourself because you know you are helping someone else.
3. Healthy distractions
Healthy distractions may look like joining a community club, taking up a new hobby, or finding a new project that requires collaboration. These distractions can help bring positivity and break the cycle of loneliness which often leads to negative thoughts.
4. Proactively reach out to those around you
Find sources of social interaction that are within your comfort zone. We often get consumed with our own feelings of loneliness that we forget others may be dealing with the same thing. Consider sending a text to a coworker that you know has a lot on their plate or asking someone to catch up over dinner.
If you are feeling isolated and disconnected, you are not alone. It’s a widespread and growing problem. It’s important to remember that it is okay to reach out for help when you need it. When we are intentional with how we connect with others, we can protect ourselves from loneliness and do our part to support those around us.
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