Tips for better social health — even during a pandemic

October 9, 2020 Providence Body & Mind Team

Social health has a powerful effect on a person’s overall well-being. Find ways to make connections for a healthier outlook on life.  

  • Social health is about meaningful relationships.
  • COVID-19 has challenged social health like never before.
  • Follow these tips to stay connected for better social well-being.

[3 MIN READ]

Mental Illness Awareness Week takes place during the first week in October. It’s a time when organizers seek to fight stigma, educate the public and support those who suffer from mental health problems or know someone who does.

During the pandemic there’s an even greater focus on the damaging effects of mental illness. One aspect of well-being that’s closely tied to mental health is social health, which has been greatly challenged during the pandemic. 

Social health is our ability to form meaningful relationships with others, from romantic partners to coworkers, family members to friends, enjoy positive interactions and adapt in social situations.

One aspect of well-being that’s closely tied to mental health is social health, which has been greatly challenged during the pandemic. 

Because of COVID-19, social health has been impacted by distancing, isolation and lockdowns. Knowing that socializing impacts our physical health, mental health and mortality risk, it’s more vital than ever for people to feel connected and supported. Here are ways connect and help build lasting benefits long after the pandemic.

7 ways to stay connected and healthy

Positive social health can help you strengthen support systems and stay physically and mentally healthier. Try these tips to stay connected and even build new relationships.

  1. Build social health by starting with a healthy self

Self-care is an important way to maintain strong relationships. Eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of rest and exercising are a good start. Learning how to handle stress is vital, too. When you’re feeling mentally and physically strong, it’s easier to share the best of yourself with others. 

  1. Connect with your kids

Whether you have youngsters at home more often because of the pandemic or young adults who are working from home, being with your kids can have its ups and downs. But try to focus on the good. Being available for chats, consistently seeking connection and actively listening can help your kids’ mental well-being and set an example of healthy socializing.

  1. Reach out to keep friendships close

Regular contact is important for maintaining close friendships. Even if you’re staying at home more, you can still set a goal to contact a couple of your friends every week. Make a call, text them, have an exchange using social media, share coffee over FaceTime or Zoom — there are a number of ways to connect with friends and keep them close at heart even when you’re social distancing.

Regular contact is important for maintaining close friendships. Even if you’re staying at home more, you can still set a goal to contact a couple of your friends every week. 

  1. Find common ground in a community group

Maybe you don’t need a lot of close friendships. If you prefer to keep things low-key but still enjoy engaging with others, think about joining a group. Because of COVID-19, many community groups are forming virtually. For example, one young lady who enjoys playing the ukulele has joined a group for a Sunday evening uke jamfest on Facebook. Make it about sharing moments with others while doing something you enjoy.

  1. Work on your friendships while working out

Grab your mask and meet a friend for a physically distant walk around the park. Or take your pet for a walk and take a moment to chat with a neighbor at a safe distance. Going out at about the same time each day often leads to seeing the same people regularly. Although you may only have a brief conversation, it can become a bright spot in your day that you look forward to and also improve your social wellness.  

  1. Keep your social commitments

Maybe you’re not going out to eat or enjoying a movie night with friends like you used to. That’s why something like a video call with a friend is just as important. Still, it takes time and effort to connect and it may seem easier to cancel the call. But canceling too often will make your friend feel less valued. That can affect not only your friend but your feelings about yourself. Try to keep your commitments and make the connection.

  1. Hone your communication skills

Communication is a major part of maintaining strong relationships and staying socially healthy. Feeling you have poor communication skills may make it hard for you to socialize and build a rapport with others. In many cases, it’s a lack of confidence or practice that can be improved by reading books or taking online courses. Not everyone is born with great communication skills, but they can be learned. These are just a few of the ways you can start now:

  • Maintain eye contact when you’re talking with someone, even if it’s on a video call.
  • Give the other person plenty of time to talk, and listen well when they do.
  • Stay tuned into your body language — for instance, don’t fold your arms, which can look like you’re not open to what the other person is saying.

Socially distant but socially healthy

If you’re finding it hard to adjust to limited social contact, you’re not alone. But there are still ways to help bridge that distance. Today’s techy tools and resources can help, along with good old-fashioned phone calls, walks and even greeting cards and letters. Staying socially healthy will benefit your physical and mental health, and your overall quality of life will reflect it.

Find a doctor

Times of social and physical distancing and isolation can make you feel lonely. If you find yourself struggling mentally and emotionally, don’t distance yourself from help. Call a helpline such as the NAMI Helpline at 800-950-6264.

If you need to find a doctor or mental health professional, you can use our provider directory or search for one in your area.

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How do you find ways to connect with others and stay socially healthy? Let us know! #socialhealth @providence

Related Resources

Mental Illness Awareness Week

How to Make the Most of Social Distancing

Tips for beating stress eating

Recognizing signs of depression in kids

Getting comfortable with Virtual Visits during COVID-19

Managing the uncertainty of the COVID-19 outbreak through walking

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Body & Mind Team is dedicated to providing medically-sound, data-backed insights and advice on how to reach and maintain your optimal health through a mixture of exercise, mindfulness, preventative care and healthy living in general.

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