Mindful Connection: The antidote to loneliness and isolationFeb 08, 2022
As the pandemic trudges on, we are gaining a better understanding of the mental and emotional consequences that come with the isolation so many of us feel. Social interactions have plummeted: we are connecting less, even though it feels like we are busier than ever.
Humans are social beings. Social interaction matters so much to our wellbeing that the lack of it is is literal torture (solitary confinement is considered one of the most cruel forms of punishment to prisoners).
The good news? We are not powerless. We can cultivate meaningful and mindful connection, even in a pandemic. It takes a little effort, but the payoff is worth it!
Today’s blog post is focused on exploring three ways to build more meaningful connections: improving the quality of your interactions in your closest relationships, breathing new life into distanced relationships and developing new friendships.
Mindful Connection Lever 1: Improve the quality of the social interactions in your family unit
For those of you who share your home with a spouse, partner, friend, or children… When was the last time you were fully present with them? It’s incredibly common to be busy, hurried or distracted. We are around each other a lot, but how is the quality of that time?
How can you bring more presence and engagement to the time you spend with those you share your home with?
Deepen your relationships through meaningful conversation.
Carve out some time (start with 30 minutes) to have a distraction free conversation. Approach the conversation with curiosity, and try to learn something new. We love conversation cards to bring new depth to dialogue, like Convers(ate)’s or BestSelf.Co’s discovery decks (remember this from our Holiday Gift Guide?). Choose from a variety of topics, like Ice Breakers, Intimacy Cards for couples, and little talk cards made specifically for kids. You can also turn to Google to find inspiration, like the Greater Good Science Center’s 36 questions for increasing closeness, like:
- What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
- For what in your life do you feel most grateful? (see how we plugged a gratitude question there...)
- If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
- Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
- Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how they might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.
For discussions with kids, we like these questions from scholastic!
Change up your routine and do something fun
Plan a digital device free activity for your household. Go for a walk outside, do some arts and crafts, cook a special meal. The point is to spend time together doing something that’s outside of your routine. Better yet, make this a new weekly tradition!
Try a “Yes Day”
If you have decision fatigue and the idea of initiating a conversation or creating a new activity feels overwhelming, try putting your loved ones in the driver's seat: Have a “Yes Day”! A “Yes Day” is 24 hours where you commit to saying yes to anything being proposed, so long as it’s safe and possible (Netflix made it a movie). What would it be like for your kids or your partner to take the lead for a day? What kind of attention and engagement do they crave?
Mindful Connection Lever 2: Breathe new life into distanced relationships
We can still have meaningful connections with those far apart, even when visiting or spending time in person isn’t possible. Have you lost touch with a friend you wish you could see? Do you have a relative who you haven’t been able to visit? Are you missing the closeness and originality of time spent in person? Are you bored with the same old text exchange or 2 minute update phone call?
How can you breathe some new life into those distanced relationships?
Explore participating in a shared virtual experience. Artists, performers and magicians have started to offer hybrid interactive experiences. You can Google “Virtual Interactive Magic Show” and find pages of options. Find something you’re both excited about and book it!
Have a distanced food and beverage experience. Many wineries are offering virtual wine tastings, allowing you to order a wine flight to multiple locations and hosting a shared tasting experience on Zoom. We’ve tried those offered by Robert Sinskey Winery and Hope and Grace Winery (both in Napa), and loved it! You can also try a cooking class, or get a meal kit from the same company and cook together (virtually) and share the same meal.
Play boardgames together. Mixed-location board game play is possible! We’ve tested Yahtzee, Qwixx and Qwinto with players in multiple locations. Each participant needs to have the game, but you can easily play together on a video call (we’ve tried up to 3 households).
Revisit the Virtual Happy Hour. Virtual happy hours aren’t exactly revolutionary, but you can bring some depth to them through conversation card topics. The prompts are meant to help you deepen your relationships, they work well virtually too!
Mindful Connection Lever 3: Cultivate new relationships
Making friendships as an adult can feel impossible. And with all the restrictions and safeguards of the pandemic? Forget about it!
What options do we have to interact with others when by most measures we’re supposed to avoid it?
It’s still possible to cultivate new relationships, and to do it safely. Here are some ideas.
Find an outdoor club or activity
Check out meetup.com for local outdoor focused activity groups. Where the climate is milder, you might find running, walking or hiking clubs that meet and recreate outside. In the colder weather, you might find skiing or snowshoeing groups. See what’s available where you live and give it a try!
Learn something new
Enrolling in an online program or taking a virtual class that has a community component can be a great way to meet new people who share common interests. There has been an explosion in programs offered entirely online during the pandemic. Many accredited, multi year programs, like certificate or masters programs are available 100% remotely. You can even complete Yoga Teacher Training online! There are also many single session classes: broaden your culinary abilities, practice public speaking, learn watercolor…the options are endless!
Contribute to a cause
Many nonprofit organizations are struggling for engaged volunteers. Getting involved with a cause you care about can be another way to cultivate new relationships
Here are the important takeaways from this blog post.
- Human connection matters.
- For most of us, social connections have suffered quite a bit over the last few years.
- It’s possible, and worth it to give some attention to cultivating deeper connections with those around us, and building new connections.
- The rewards go beyond the joy and fulfillment of feeling connected, to physical and mental health benefits as well.
How will you nourish your human connections this week?
Another way to cultivate connections is to head on a retreat with other fabulous, brilliant humans who are also focusing on their wellbeing and growth. Mindfulness Incubator will be hosting two three night, four day retreats in 2022: June 2-5 and September 15-18 2022. These experiences have been curated for maximum renewal, and to help you unplug from the day to day chaos, and find yourself again. Learn all about these upcoming retreats here.
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