The Importance of Human Connection. Pandemic’s Silver Lining?

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It’s been a while since a handshake, hug or close contact came naturally (without the thought of germs)!

 

There is no argument – 2021 has been a tough year on our mental health. We have been challenged by the seemingly never-ending COVID pandemic. And in the behavioral health field the increase in overdoses, caused by multiple factors linked with the pandemic, resulted in more than 100,000 deaths.

 

Is Connection the Pandemic’s Silver Lining?

There is a silver lining to the dark cloud of our collective mental health as we begin the New Year. And that is the acknowledgement, after imposed isolation, that connection is a universal panacea to mental health conditions. In a time when loneliness and digital interactions are on the rise, creating connection can improve our health, happiness and overall well-being.

 

Self-care strategies are good for your mental and physical health and can help you take charge of your life. Take care of your body and your mind and connect with others to benefit your mental health. (Mayo Clinic)

 

In her year-end message, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director, Dr. Nora Volkow says, “I do see some very positive aspects that we’ve all learned through the COVID pandemic, and one of them is being able to recognize how extraordinarily important it is for all to have social contacts, to have communities, to have friendships, to reach out to help others… because in situations of stress, we actually have the capacity to come together and that coming together brings the best in all of us. And it is that that will lead us to a better tomorrow, as we overcome the COVID pandemic, but also the opioid crisis.”

 

What is Human Connection?

Human connection happens when two or more people interact and each person feels valued, seen and heard. Further, human connection brings the sense of closeness and belonging that goes hand-in-hand with having supportive, non-judgmental relationships. Connection with like-minded individuals has long been the cornerstone of addiction recovery. And there’s a reason we feel so good after group therapy or a 12-step meeting. There is an old saying: If you want to change your behavior, find other people who are trying to make the same change.

 

As we head into our third year of mask wearing and cancelled events due to COVID-19, one thing is certain. Human beings are happier, healthier and more resolved when they identify with a community. But it’s been a while since a handshake, hug or close contact came naturally (without the thought of germs). So, how do we create the all important connection in the year 2022?

 

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Prioritize loved ones…

 

Consider embracing these concepts in 2022:

  • Recognize that mental health is an essential part of overall health.

  • Prioritize your loved ones!

  • Support the mental health of children and youth in educational, community, and childcare settings. And expand and support the early childhood and education workforce. (U.S. Surgeon General)

  • Take advantage of telehealth and virtual connection.

  • Cuddle your pet (or a baby).

  • Advocate for mental health services for young, less educated, single, female, Black and Hispanic individuals.

  • Find solace in silence – connection can be made quietly too.

  • Build stamina for the long haul.

  • Talk to a therapist or mental health professional.

  • Pray, meditate, or find spirituality in nature.

  • Do your part to lessen the stigma of mental illness – reach out.

  • Read this

 

There are actually a few positives that have come from the pandemic. Not the least of which is a world  discovering its true grit. Humans are resourceful, and thankfully we have embraced telemedicine and virtual connection – innovations that will serve us long after this variant of COVID dissapates. Connection is the key to withstanding the slings and arrows life throws at us. Yes, we have been dodging arrows for 24 months… But wellbeing is a complicated combination of a person’s physical, mental, emotional and social health factors. And wellbeing is strongly linked to happiness and life satisfaction.

 

Happiness in a pandemic? A silver lining? It can happen. As can improved mental health. There are many smart people working to solve the crisis of mental illness, addiction, and general malaise we face. But there is something you can do for yourself. Instead of using your phone to scroll social media, call your mom/bestie/sponsor. Join a book club or church group even if it meets virtually. Get out of doors and remember that the sun still rises, birds nest, turtles sun themselves. Nurture friendships. Ask for help. And laugh. Remember to laugh at this crazy thing we call life.

 

Happy New Year!

 

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Marilyn Spiller is a writer, sober coach, recovery advocate, and student of the world. (She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Creative Writing). Seven years sober herself, she penned one of the first sobriety blogs, "Waking Up the Ghost" in 2013. The blog garnered an international following, allowing Marilyn to communicate with thousands of folks in all stages of recovery. Marilyn is Sanford's Director of Marketing and serves as Editor-In-Chief for the Sanford online magazine, "Excursions". She also developed and hosts the podcast Anatomy of Addiction.