Humans are connected beings. Actually, we’re hard-wired for it. Connection, co-operation, community…we need each other if we’re to maintain good health.
In the Middle East, the desert dwellers or Bedouin have an unspoken law which says that a traveller may seek refuge in a stranger’s camp for three days before the host can ask him who he is or where he is going. The Arabic phrase ahlan was sahlan, which is roughly translated as ‘welcome’ and is usually meant in that way, actually means ‘you have come to your family and flat or smooth ground’. In other words, the host says to the traveller that he is welcome as though with his own family and that his way is easy to traverse.
It’s not easy being alone in the desert.
And it’s not easy being alone when you’re struggling with stress and an ongoing low mood.
Do you consider yourself an introvert? I am. I have no problem at all with spending hours, even days on my own. But I do have to be careful that it doesn’t become a problem.
Sometimes we confuse our personality style – introverted and extroverted – with a need for human contact. Changing your thinking about your personality style and getting engaged with your social network – even on a very small scale – is essential for a healthy mood. We all need to feel connected to other people, whether you consider yourself introverted or extroverted.
The difference is that introverts find extended periods of time with people, events involving a lot of
people or other stimulus (eg concerts or parties) and stimulating environments (eg busy workplaces, being in the city) exhausting, which extroverts thrive on exciting environments and crowds.
This is not to say that introverts can’t be in crowded environments, but that they are not refreshing or energising the way they are for extroverts.
Nonetheless, even introverts need to be connected to other human beings, but that is more likely to take the form of quiet gatherings of a small number of people.
So we all need to develop and maintain connections with others. Relationships with friends and loved ones need to be nurtured, work colleagues may become friends, we look out for our neighbours and join others in the community to work on causes and projects that are meaningful to us.
Being alone in the world is not healthy and it’s important to maintain a good mood to have some kind of human contact regularly, if not every day. This keeps us looking outward and being part of something bigger than ourselves. This gives us the chance to be looked after and to care for others.
Caring for others makes us feel needed; we are needed by others – people and causes – to make the world a better place. Changing your thinking about the need for social connection and making it a priority will help you on your journey to a depression free future – a journey you shouldn’t be making on your own.
Here Are My Tips TO Keep You Engaged With Others:
Make sure you leave your house once each day.
Go for a walk, do your grocery shopping, head for the library, go to work.
During this outing, ensure that you smile (and wave) at two or three people and say hello to or stop for a brief chat at least once, more if possible.
This might include smiling and waving at your neighbour, saying hello to the bus driver and thanking her or him when you reach your stop, asking the checkout person how their day has been and meaning it, smiling at the librarian as you ask where a book is.
Anything to have a short human interaction. This interaction might last 1 to about 5 minutes.
Use your diary and line up one phone call to a friend, one coffee date with another friend or cousin, sibling or even your Mum ad one other activity that puts you in contact with people for at least one hour. This sounds like a lot if you have been hiding yourself away at home but it might look like this:
Monday night, phone your Mum, Grandpa, aunty, bestie, cousin and see how he/she is, chat for 20 minutes.
Wednesday night, spin class, yoga class, dance class, book group, French class, cooking class, photography club, environmental protection group etc. At least one hour interacting with other people over a shared interest.
Saturday morning: walk in the park or gym session with your friend, coffee after.
This interaction should last from 20 minutes to an hour or so.
Use your diary and organise one larger gathering of friends or family.
It could be dinner in a nice restaurant, dinner at your place, a backyard BBQ, a picnic in the park. It needs to include food and a group of at least four people including yourself. You don’t need to actually cook the food or organise the gathering. Get on the phone and suggest it to one friend who then helps out with the work or the inviting of others.
The point is that this should be a larger gathering than you would normally meet with for a hour or two over coffee. This gathering should last for several hours and preferably include some other kind of activity like a walk, a game of cricket or football, flying a kite, riding a bike, or other physical game. If that is not possible, at least dinner at a nice restaurant or at your place or a friend’s place.
Alternatively, you might find a local history society, hiking group, photography club or cooking class that has activities that last a morning, or an afternoon or an entire day. Picking up your neglected camera and joining others on a 3-hour outdoor photography session is a great way to get some longer interaction.
Join a group of others and enjoy a new hobby or rekindle a new one. Get out of your head and your thoughts and be creative!
Or perhaps there’s a local volunteer centre where you can find out about volunteer opportunities. Maybe there’s a community music festival coming up which needs volunteer organisers, or a local school fete which needs someone on the sausage sizzle or bric a brac stall. Perhaps you’d like to volunteer your time at a soup kitchen, second hand clothing shop or other charitable organisation.
The point is to be outward looking, out of your head and out of your worries by offering what you can to others.
This interaction should last for 2 to 3 hours.
Staying Connected is a Proven Mood-Booster
Get into the habit of scheduling contact on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. We need to be around each other, supporting and being supported by our friends and loved ones. We need to know we are part of something bigger than ourselves and our own small lives.
Be actively interested in your friends’ lives, help out your neighbours, get involved in your local community.
You’ll find your mood brighten; and I wonder whose day you’ll make just that little bit more special?