Social Wellness: Stay Connected and Thrive
I never knew there was a Social Wellness Month, and even if I did, I’m not sure I would’ve paid much attention to it…but that was before COVID-19. From reading about social wellness, I will define it as having an emotionally and physically healthy life through relationships with others, connection within the community and regular activities. We may all have a different approach to social wellness, but at its core, social wellness is recognizing that human beings are built for and thrive from connection and relationship with others. A landmark study performed at the University of Michigan showed that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. Alternatively, strong social connection can lead to a 50% increased chance of longevity, has shown to strengthen your immune system and may help you recover from disease faster.
We may be growing weary of talking about the impact that COVID-19 had/is having on our lives, but I think for many of us, the isolation from COVID-19 highlighted just how much social and physical interaction with others is essential to our well-being. Even those of us who may prefer to be alone or need to be alone to recharge. I am content to be alone, but I am also an active participant in my life. I have hobbies, friends and volunteer activities that are very much a part of daily my life. Prior to 2020, the time alone was balanced out by my family, friends, and activities. As time wore on with COVID-19, I became very isolated, and ultimately depressed. I had a Zoom account so I could spend time with friends and family virtually, and for a while, that eased the loneliness. But the lack of physical contact with friends and family and engagement in activities was causing me to spend too much time thinking about the negative aspects of my life and the world around me. My generally positive view of life was beginning to sour and I became focused on the fear that isolation can create. I didn’t have balance; I didn’t have the input from experience that being out in the world provides. Making matters worse, once we were able to get out into the world, I found it easier not to. I had grown accustomed to staying home, so I did. Finally, I forced myself out into the world to re-engage, to connect and I immediately felt better.
As I write this, I have COVID-19. I have been alone for six days and am starting to feel better, but I have four more days of quarantine. I have learned what I need to do to stay positive. I’m a painter, so I jump online with my fellow painters, I FaceTime daily with family and friends, I meditate daily to stay grounded and hopeful, I try to choose uplifting shows and uplifting informative podcasts. Having the ability to work virtually is a blessing that keeps me engaged with my colleagues. Regardless of those tactics, however, the loneliness and negative thinking sneak back and I crave connection.
We are fortunate to live in a state that is a vacation to many. Walking in nature is the great elixir. Volunteering in the community with which we live provides connection and feeds the soul. We are surrounded by towns and cities that have opportunity for celebration and social interaction. It takes that extra effort to stay engaged, to feel a part of, but I have found open and welcoming arms wherever I go to feel connected.
Below are some of my favorite resources for connections while doing something I love:
- Find a Volunteer Opportunity Near You | United Way Worldwide
- Find a Trail for Hiking, Walking, Biking, Running | TrailLink
- Colorado Events & Festivals | Colorado.com
- Meetup – We are what we do
- Red Rocks – 2022 Concerts and Events
- Colorado Farmers Markets | Farmers Markets in CO | FarmersMarketPlaces.com
Connectedness & Health: The Science of Social Connection – The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (stanford.edu)