More time at home doesn’t have to mean less connection. Here are ways you can explore keeping the social in your distance.
Social engagement is vital for health and happiness. With many of us staying home more, keeping our social connection sparks ablaze can be a challenge. But it doesn’t have to turn you into a hermit. Isolation and inactivity can cause depression, increase stress and lead to other illnesses.
We believe it’s essential to maintain the social ties that strengthen ourselves and our communities. So here are some ideas to keep you in touch with your friends and family from the comfort of your home. Some of them involve a bit of technology, but all you really need is a bit of ingenuity and kindness.
1. Music is good for the soul
Music is an essential part of the human experience, with benefits. Playing an instrument can increase blood flow to your brain, improving your mood and your ability to multitask. Listening to music can make work more fun, get you through a grueling workout and might even help you heal faster.
If you don’t play an instrument, this is a great time to learn. YouTube is jam packed with lessons or you can reach out to someone you know who plays for tips via your favorite video chat tool. Don’t own an instrument? You can always try singing.
For those missing the thrill of live music, there are quite a few live concerts streaming. Many of them are broadcast on social networks so you can still interact with people. Sharing playlists is another fun way to enjoy music together.
HiRoad is a place for music lovers. Our Vice President Steve begins and ends our all-hands meetings with some guitar riffs. Since we have guitars all around the office, it’s not uncommon for others to join him. It’s a tradition we enjoyed in the office, and missed, so we took it online. A few HiRoaders pick up their guitars (and ukuleles) at the end of the virtual meeting and hang out for a couple of minutes to strum together.
2. Practice your foreign language skills
Learning another language is so good for your brain. It can boost your memory, make you a better communicator and increase empathy. Having conversations in other languages is also pretty fun.
Online learning tools like duolingo and Rosetta Stone have been around for a while and there are also plenty of free lessons on YouTube. However, one of the fastest ways to learn a language (or improve your skills) is to have one-on-one conversations.
Chances are you know someone who speaks another language. Schedule a call or a video chat with a language buddy. If you want to practice your writing, text or email. If you don’t know anyone who speaks the language you’d like to learn, there are several sites where you can find conversation partners.
3. Break virtual bread together
Meeting up after work for coffee or dinner with friends is important because the simple ritual of eating together is nourishing for both your body and mind. While we’re apart, it’s something we need to find a surrogate for.
One answer is to invite folks to join you to eat remotely. If that sounds weird, consider the South Korean social media phenomenon called mukbang. This hot YouTube trend involves eating massive meals in front of a camera. Some videos have millions of views because people find a sense of camaraderie through the screen.
Scheduling is key to making it work. Set a time to meet and stick to it just like you would with real plans. It doesn’t have to be a full meal, either. You can have a morning coffee meetup or an after-work happy hour.
HiRoad team members have been experimenting with remote lunch and it’s been a blast. On Wednesdays at the HiRoad office, we usually have a family-style lunch where we all get together. It’s always lively and it has been the source of some of our best ideas.
4. OM while you’re at home
Mindfulness meditation is tremendous for stress reduction, promoting sleep and increasing your focus. There are physical benefits as well, like lowered blood pressure and boosted immune response.
It’s easy to start practicing. Headspace is one of the top meditation apps on the market. In fact, it’s the one we chose to offer our Team Members as a benefit, and many are having success with it. There are also an abundance of free YouTube channels and podcasts available with great teachers.
Meditation is often thought of as a solo activity, but it doesn’t have to be. Doing it with others helps develop meditation as a habit and creates a community of belonging and acceptance. Get a small group together online and share guiding duties by reading from a book of meditations.
If you have an experienced meditator in your circle, see if they’d be willing to take the lead. One of the engineers behind HiRoad, Sungho, is a breathing instructor certified in the Wim Hof method. He’s run some online meditations for us that have been quite successful and enjoyable. [He’s written a post for us about a simple exercise called box breathing you can read here.]
5. Make time to look out for people
It’s really important to make sure you’re staying in touch with people who are vulnerable right now. One example is elderly family members. They’re less likely to be plugged into social media, so pick up the phone and see how they’re doing.
You don’t have to be related to people to reach out, either. One of our team members lives with her 82-year-old mom. Her mom cooks for a small community of older folks in the neighborhood that live alone. Every day she prepares at least one meal—lunch or dinner—and then they deliver it to their door and say a hello from a safe distance, checking to see if they’re okay.
This is right in line with former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s tips on combating loneliness. In an inspiring Twitter thread, he lays out the harms of isolation and how to overcome them. He says, “Loneliness is associated with higher risk of heart disease, dementia, depression, and anxiety.”
He suggests spending 15 minutes a day communicating with your loved ones. And when you do, make that time count by decreasing distractions and giving them your full attention.
Murthy is also big on offering service to others. He says, “It turns out that when we reach out and help someone else, that not only enables us to connect with another human being, but it reminds us of our value and of our purpose in life.”
All of the above is just a starting point. What’s important is that you do something for yourself and make time for people you care about. If there’s one takeaway from this experience, it’s that we can do with less of just about everything—except each other. And in the end, if you continue these good habits after the pandemic is over, you can be closer than ever to the ones you care about.