Written by: Nev Amp, Practice Consultant, Rural Alive & Well
Feeling socially connected, especially in an increasingly isolated world is more important than ever before.
Research shows that loneliness is on the rise, and that social isolation presents a far greater risk of death than obesity, smoking 15 cigarettes a day, excessive alcohol consumption, or lack of physical activity.
Numerous other studies also reveal that loneliness is the invisible, lurking root cause behind many health conditions including addictions, depression, anxiety, poor sleep quality, cognitive decline, heart disease and impaired immunity.
While solitude can be enjoyable for some, at least in moderation, being connected to others is widely considered a fundamental human need.
Social connection can help:
- Reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Regulate emotions
- Improve self esteem
- Increase empathy
- Improve our immune system
Social connection can be different for each of us. For some people being around a lot of people is overwhelming, and for others it’s energising. Only you know what works for you. But, if you are not sure where to start here are some ideas to help you out:
- Join a new club (sports club, book club, Rotary/Lions, rural youth club etc.)
- Try out a group activity (walking group, gym class, yoga, crafts etc.)
- Restart an old hobby, or take a class to learn something new
- Reach out to an old friend you haven’t spoken to in a while
- Volunteer for a cause you care about
- Introduce yourself to your neighbours
- Organise a playdate for the kids
- Have a family picnic/BBQ at the park
- Check out the events happening in your local community
How can you build genuine connections in a world where social distancing is prioritised?
- Be authentic and allow others to see your strengths, achievements, weaknesses and struggles. We live in a society where covering feelings and emotions and hiding behind fake stories is a norm. Take your mask off and just be yourself.
- Be present in your interactions, rather than being distracted by what needs to happen next on the farm, or how much housework still needs doing
- Connect in person as much as possible. At this moment, the pandemic is still a reality and we must continue to embrace digital platforms and/or the phone to maintain connection. However, technology should be used as a means to enhance connection and reduce periods of potential isolation, not replace the real, face to face moments we need to have to feel true connection.
- Make time to spend with people. Stop spending nights and weekends focussing on work or other commitments or using ‘too busy’ as an excuse. Invite friends over for dinner or a BBQ. If socialising in person is currently not an option, schedule regular catch-ups online or on the phone.
- Destigmatize loneliness. We must talk more openly about loneliness, because it afflicts most of us. It is not a sign of weakness or failure, but an expression of our innate human need to belong and connect.
Need help staying connected? RAW is here to help you take the first steps.