We are living in unprecedented times. There are many stressors associated with the current Coronavirus including the imperative “stay home and limit interaction with others” in a national effort to help flatten the curve. But social and medical scientists have long known that human isolation or even the perception of isolation is bad for health. As Seattle naturopathic doctor Cate Bereznay, ND, MPH says,

Social distancing needs to be rebranded as physical distancing because it is about not being physically close to each other rather than about social isolation.”

The advent of the internet and various platforms for remaining in touch are key pieces to staying connected.

Whether by phone, email, video chat platforms, reaching out to family and friends, or enjoying new or familiar activities together, we can stem the feelings of social isolation.

And, as necessity is often the parent of invention, creative people the world over are coming up with novel ways to stay in touch and to make the best of a difficult time.

Here are some of our favorite activities created or moved to online platforms:

  1. Happy hours with friends to include book groups, separate-but-together movie night, themed dinner parties;
  2. Yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, circus, online meditation and workout classes with friends;
  3. Art-making “gatherings,” dance parties, and language practice sessions;
  4. Teachers in a myriad of subject areas are offering classes, webinars, and podcasts;
  5. Social online video games are always popular and old favorite games have been moved online, like Yahtzee, Scrabble, or Boggle;
  6. Cooking with a friend in separate kitchens and sharing a meal together;
  7. Concerts in every genre performed by our favorite artists from the comfort of their living rooms;
  8. We have also heard that long lost friends and family members are reaching out and reconnecting, a small silver lining in challenging times;
  9. For those rather happy to have more hours at home, here are some ways people are spending that extra time: journal writing, baking, sewing, playing a long-forgotten instrument, taking walks, working out, meditating, tackling that house/office/organizing/ project that’s been long on the to-do list, singing, napping, organizing photos, gardening, catching up with movies and TV, and of course, reading.

The list goes on. There are many ways that social isolation has a negative impact on overall health and mortality. One area of study reveals that feeling lonely has a negative impact on the immune response.

Licensed naturopathic doctors can help in this regard through training in nutrition, botanical medicine, exercise prescriptions and more. For further timely information on this topic, consider registering for the INM House Call: Building Resistance Naturally, COVID-19 and Beyond. Tuesday, March 31st at 11 am PST. Register here.

The challenges of this time will be amplified by those who already feel socially isolated or who struggle with depression, anxiety, and other chronic complaints. There are online and phone resources available to all, including:

As we reckon with the impact of COVID-19, let’s also focus on the positive steps we can take toward staying connected and creating supportive and compassionate communities. Perhaps, on the other side of this pandemic, our newfound skills will add to more vibrant and enduring health for all. Stay healthy and well!  We at INM encourage everyone to create and develop deeper community connections, wherever you are.

Written by Amy Rothenberg, ND with resources provided by Griffin McMath, ND.