Module 2: Increasing Social Connection in a time of Social Distancing
What is social connectedness? Why is it important? Social connection in psychology is based upon the perception of social support. You can have tons of people around you, but still feel alone. You can also be alone but feel supported and connected to loved ones. It is the feeling of closeness and connectedness to a community. It is rooted in feelings of belonging, love, and common values. Humans are innately social creatures. Every person we interact with is forever part of our social network. They are family members, friends, coworkers, teammates, neighbors, and acquaintances. Each has a lasting impact on our physical and mental health.
During this unique time of social distancing, it is imperative that we do not completely disconnect with one another. In fact, it is more critical now than ever to “virtually” come together. Ongoing research supports the positive health benefits of social connectedness.
Engaging with your network and partaking in activities are proven to have the following health benefits:
- Longer life,
- The stronger immune system,
- Improved memory and cognitive skills,
- Increased motivation for self-care and
- Lower levels of stress hormones.
Shawn discussed how, by making some small positive actions, you can increase your brain’s awareness of social support and feel more connected to others.
What have you done to increase social connection during COVID-19?
1. Gratitude Letter
Write a letter expressing thanks and read it to them.
Begin by thinking about someone that has done or said something (tangible or intangible) that made a difference in your life. It can be a relative, colleague, significant other, volunteer, friend. Write as though you are addressing this person directly, i.e..
- Don’t worry about perfect grammar or spelling.
- Describe in specific terms what this person did, why you are grateful to this person, and how this person’s behavior affected your life. Try to be as concrete as possible.
- Describe what you are doing in your life now and how you often remember his or her efforts.
- Try to keep your letter to roughly one page (approximately 300 words).
- Let that person know you’d like to see him or her and have something special to share, but don’t reveal the exact purpose of the meeting.
- When you meet in person or virtually, let the person know that you are grateful to them and would like to read a letter expressing your gratitude. Ask that they refrain from interrupting until you’re done.
- Take your time to read the letter. While you read, pay attention to their reaction, as well as your own. After you have read the letter, be receptive to their reaction and discuss your feelings together.
- Remember to give the letter to the person when you leave. If physical distance keeps you from a personal visit, try to arrange a video chat.
- Daily Good News Sharing
Having a daily family sharing practice is a great tool for building a connection. Sharing one (or more) things that are going well not only makes for a positive conversation but also helps us each – individually – grow our gratitude muscle. Sharing about what we’re grateful for can be at dinner, in the car, at bedtime, or whatever time works best with your family’s schedule. Just make it a daily habit and everyone will get used to it.
2. Gratitude Scavenger Hunt
Every once in a while it’s important to remind your entire family to stop and smell the roses. One great way to remind them of the little things in life they enjoy is through a gratitude scavenger hunt!
This activity will send everyone on a mission to capture photographs of their favorite things at home. They’ll find that they don’t have to go far to discover items that bring them joy and happiness.
Turn this into a competition by timing the hunt. Whoever completes their sheet the fastest wins.
To go on a gratitude scavenger hunt, you’ll need:
◻︎ Regular paper
◻︎ A printer
◻︎ A camera or camera phone
Directions: Once you’ve printed the scavenger hunt sheet, get your camera or camera phone ready. Then, set off to snap pictures of your favorite things and check each item off the list once you’ve captured a photo. Once you have all of the photos collected, you can arrange them in a scrapbook so you can revisit the photos. Scavenger Hunt Sheet Spanish
3. Gratitude Jar Activity
You can teach your entire family gratitude with a daily gratitude jar activity. Each day, ask each member of your family to write down something they’re thankful for. The power of positive thinking can improve their mood and happiness. To do this activity at home, you’ll need:
- 3 sheets of regular paper
- 1 sheet of sticker paper
- A printer
- A mason jar
Directions: Start your gratitude jar by printing Gratitude Cards on paper. Cut along the lines to get 10 gratitude to-dos. For a full month’s supply, print three times. From there, replace your regular paper with sticker paper and print the gratitude jar label. Cut this label and attach to a mason jar. Voila! You’re ready to start your gratitude jar. Decorate your jar with a colorful ribbon or paint. Gratitude Cards Spanish
- 10 Ideas for Coping with Loneliness During Social Distancing (English)
- 10 Ideas for Coping with Loneliness During Social Distancing (Spanish)
- Coronavirus: 5 ways to stay (virtually) social and make the best of isolation (English)
- Coronavirus: 5 ways to stay (virtually) social and make the best of isolation (Spanish)
- How to keep kids social during a time of social distancing (English)
- How to keep kids social during a time of social distancing (Spanish)
- How Social Support Contributes to Psychological Health (English)
- How Social Support Contributes to Psychological Health (Spanish)
- Maintaining a Sense of Social Connection in a Time of Social Distancing (English)
- Maintaining a Sense of Social Connection in a Time of Social Distancing (Spanish)
- Former surgeon general on how loneliness could reduce lifespan (English)
- Former surgeon general on how loneliness could reduce lifespan (captions available in Spanish)