Social connection, not social distancing

Social connection, not social distancing

Social connection, not social distancing

By Natalie Yan-Chatonsky

Wow! Hasn’t this pandemic been such an extraordinarily surreal and collective reset?

However, from the ashes of economic, health and social turmoil, I am nonetheless confident that our collective strength and support for each other, will create a bed of resilience that will help us pull through.

As we recover from this pandemic, I believe we’ll emerge stronger, healthier and happier in our work, our personal lives and our communities. Indeed, with the greater time we have, we are starting to see a generosity of spirit and deeper social connections beginning to bloom –  almost everywhere. I feel and smell Spring is coming. 

So if you also sense that Spring is coming, with brighter and sunnier days, then there’s nothing better to get closer (maybe not physically, with COVID), personally and socially. For we cannot deny our need for deep human interaction. So let’s reconnect with those we’ve lost touch with and plant the seeds for new connections. It’s the most uplifting and nurturing thing you can do.

Closer communities to overcome challenges 

This pandemic has highlighted something that the long-living healthy community members in the Blue Zones have always known – just how vital social connectedness is.

My observations and experiences of the way of life in the Blue Zones communities, where locals outlive their life expectancy with full health and vitality, is nothing but an extraordinary fountain of inspiration. 

I remember my social encounters with Okinawans when I was on my study tour.  It’s hard to imagine their idyllic tropical island was where the Battle of Okinawa took place in April-June 1945. That episode resulted in terrible devastation with over 100,000 Japanese casualties, including women and children.  

Okinawans, like coffee plantation owner Adachi-san (pictured with me), seem to always radiate with positivity and resilience.  Hiro-san faced much hardship as a coffee plantation owner in her second career. But she gives much credit to her late father’s friends in offering moral support and labour to help her revive the farm after two natural disasters. I find it amazing how she can keep smiling, be chatty and happy! 

Positive and healthy living stems from both close relationships and casual contacts

Close relationships play one of the most important factors in keeping people happy throughout life – far more than I.Q., genes, social class or any other single factor. This was the conclusion from the longest-running longevity study: the Harvard Study of Adult Development.  Dr. Robert Waldinger, director of the study, said “The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80” 

As you socially distance, it might take some ingenuity to think of new ways to bring you closer to your family and the friends you care about. I suggest you try to find virtual ways to establish a bridge with casual contacts. Feeling like you are together with others, even virtually, may give you a sense of being connected to something larger, making both you and others happy. 

We are all human, we are all vulnerable, and we are all in it together during these challenging times. Let’s all find ways to bind the social fabric around us in a socially distanced way and help each other however we can do so safely. This fabric comes from being intentional about leading a life of purpose and meaningful connections.