Today your social calendar may look a lot less full than back in January of this year. Your book club isn’t meeting, the 40th birthday party you were planning on attending got cancelled and maybe your best friend’s wedding was postponed. With the hit of the Corona virus in the United States back in March, socialization came to a grinding halt. We were all subjected to quarantine, which meant working from home (unless you were an essential worker), attending school from home, and that regular gym appointment you may have had now had to be conducted from home. That also meant your social interactions were now limited to your immediate family or possibly just your four legged friend. 

So how do social interactions make us healthier and happier people?

As humans, we thrive on connections. When we regularly see our friends, family, and co-workers it releases dopamine in our brains which can lead to an overall happier mood. A recent study found that people who exercised in a group rather than on their own had decreased stress levels and had better mental and physical health after a 12-week period. Socializing with people not only creates a sense of community but also helps us get out of our own heads, makes us feel connected to the world around us, and helps us realize we are not alone. 

How can we maintain social connections in today’s climate?

Now that the world is (somewhat) opening back up it may be easier to socialize with your peers and loved ones even if that means wearing a mask and staying 6 feet apart. Here are a few ideas on how you can maintain those social connections that we as humans naturally crave.

  • Have a socially distant picnic at the park– bring snacks, refreshments, a blanket, and even your pet(s) to catch up with the ones you care about. 
  • Create a Zoom Happy Hour!– schedule a night that everyone can hop on a zoom call and catch up with one another virtually. 
  • Call your friends– sometimes even a phone call can make you feel more connected and refreshed. 
  • Plan a meet up at a place that makes you feel comfortable– today restaurants, breweries, bars, nail salons, and gyms in Charlotte are all following COVID-19 guidelines with mask wearing, crowd limitations, and social distancing. Find a place where you feel comfortable for you and your friends to socialize safely. Maybe you and your friends schedule a nail appointment together and sit 6 feet apart or you take a gym class with a pal and follow the same guidelines. 
  • Don’t forget your self care activities– sometimes you need to take a break from listening to the news and reading about what is going on in the world today. This doesn’t mean you’re not staying informed, it just means you’re taking care of your mental health so you can come back to it when you are ready. 

-Rachael Trivette