Now, more than ever, is a time to be social (while physically distant)

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The importance of remaining social during COVID-19

Photo by Gustavo Wandalen sourced via Pixabay

I’m not going to lie — It didn’t feel at all real at first. As the news filtered in during January and February of the spread of COVID-19, my biggest concerns were still what I needed to pick up from the grocery store and when my next assignment was due. Even as the first case on Vancouver Island was reported on March 11, it still didn’t feel totally real. UVic was still open, classes were still going on, and I still spent the nights cooking with my girlfriend. And then, reality hit like a truck. 

The two things that I’ve learned while spending endless days inside as the weather gets better is that first, staring at four walls all day is not my idea of fun, and second, connecting with family and friends during a time like this is critical.

Numerous studies have shown how important social interaction is for people’s physical and mental wellbeing. Having healthy social ties has been found to make people healthier, boost mental health, and increase life expectancy. In fact, some studies have shown that social ties are actually a bigger determinant of life expectancy than a healthy diet or level of fitness. While I’m not saying that everyone should start eating nothing but chips and lay on the couch all day as long as they’re still talking to people, if there is one thing everyone can do during COVID-19, it is to be social. 

The benefits of being social don’t just extend to family and friends, however, as it has also been found that the tighter-knit communities are, the better able they are to rebuild after a disaster. While health officials have mandated that people practice physical distancing, sometimes incorrectly using the phrase ‘social distancing,’ this doesn’t mean you need to cut yourself off socially. In fact, health officials have urged people to keep in contact not only with family and friends, but also with community members — whether that be through talking from at least six feet away or picking up groceries for those who are vulnerable

On a personal note, with my girlfriend on the Sunshine Coast and most of my friends in Victoria while I sit at home in North Vancouver, my mental health was in for one heck of a beating on account of loneliness. However, I have been able to keep in contact with them through Skype and Facebook Messenger, and I wholeheartedly credit this for the maintenance of my mental health. Routine is also important, so come hell or high water my girlfriend and I Skype every night and have both remarked how it has helped keep us grounded and enabled us to maintain a healthy relationship from afar.

Living in the 21st century also has its perks as modern technology has given us the tools to connect with people across the world. Apps such as Skype, Zoom, and Google Meet can allow people to connect instantaneously and are the next best thing to seeing people in person. Even if these aren’t an option for you, you can still call people up on the telephone.

Family and friends are the most important people in our lives, and are even more critical in times of crisis as they help keep us happy and grounded. If everyone stays social and connected we could come out the other side as stronger, healthier, and happier. So why not pick up the phone and call a family member or an old friend who you haven’t seen in a long time? After all, we are all in this together.