It’s a crazy time in the world and we are experiencing unprecedented times. There’s no need for me to bring more attention to the current health climate. Institutions are evolving and our normal way of life is shifting by the minute. We’re physically distancing and spending less time outside our homes. It’s extraordinary to think that we’ve lived to experience a global pandemic to this scale.
Despite these daily changes in the way we know life, one thing remains the same. We are inherently social beings. During times of hardship, humans thrive from having meaningful connections and social support. As such, here are some ideas to mindfully stay connected with the world around us.
Connection: The energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenanc and strength from the relationship.
– Brené Brown
1. Smile at a stranger
It may feel like a hostile world out there. Fear not! You have the wonderful power of evoking kindness in others. All it takes is a smile.
On your next visit to the grocery store, make eye contact and smile at the next person who walks past you. This is a simple act that, when conducted collectively, can help overcome the current human bias that people are greedy, hostile and individualist. The simple acknowledgement of another’s presence may become the highlight of someone’s day – who knows, maybe even yours.
2. Send a letter or care package to a loved one
When was the last time you wrote a letter or card for a loved one? We have access to instant messaging, yet, communicating through a letter can be a deeply personal experience for both the giver and receiver. Think of the people who may not be as active on social media or their phones. Think of the friend you haven’t heard from in a while.
3. Have a gratitude buddy
You know those friends you talk to on a daily basis? Otherwise, who’s someone you love but wish you could check in with more often? Ask them to become your gratitude buddy. It’s simple. Each day, you tell each other three things that you are grateful for. They can be big things or little things. It helps to keep us reminded that there is always something to be grateful for. It can help shift the collective anxious thought towards one that is grateful. For instance, today I am grateful for my health, the health of my loved ones, and this precious life that we are given each and every day.
4. Meditate for others
Tonglen practice, also known as “taking and sending,” reverses our usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure. In tonglen practice, we visualize taking in the pain of others with every in-breath and sending out whatever will benefit them on the out-breath. In he process, we become liberated from age-old patterns of selfishness. We begin to feel love for both ourselves and others; we begin to take care of ourselves and others.
Credit: How to practice tonglen
Personally, I’ve found tonglen to be a deeply enriching form of meditation. It is rooted in Tibetan Buddhism as a means of increasing compassion. It shifts the moment of silence away from ourselves towards others. It goes to show that we don’t need to always be around others to feel connected with them.
Another form of compassion meditation is known as loving-kindness meditation. You can try Tara Brach’s guided meditation here.
5. Check in with your neighbours
When was the last time you checked on old mate’s health next door? Depending on your level of physical distancing, you could ring or leave a note (with your contact number) in your neighbours’ mailboxes to check in with their wellbeing. Maybe they’ll need assistance picking something up from the grocery store. You never know how much the simple act of offering can help someone’s day.
6. Share a (virtual) meal with someone
It’s finally time for you to catch up with that friend you’ve been meaning to see for the last… 3… months. Why not from the comfort of your home? Invite a loved one to share a meal with you. There’s less pressure to focus on the conversation (food’s a great distraction!) and you each get to choose a meal of your preference from any cuisine. Win-win.
7. Do something kind for those working on the frontline
Thank you to all the teachers, retail, hospitality and healthcare workers who are on the frontline of the coronavirus. Can you think of something you could creatively do to support those on the frontline?
A simple example could be to support an initiative like @buythemacoffee. They’re fundraising to provide coffees to healthcare professionals across Australia. Visit their page to see how you could support them.
8. Donate blood
People experiencing chronic health conditions have a greater risk of experiencing illness during the COVID-19 crisis. The need for blood and plasma does not stop during a global health epidemic. If you are healthy and well, donating blood is a wonderful way to stay connected to the world. You are contributing to the wellness of someone’s physical being. You can do so by calling 13 14 95 or visiting Australian Red Cross Lifeblood.
How will your blood be used?
Credit: Donate Blood
9. Set boundaries within the household
If you live with other people at home, chances are, you’ll be spending a lot more time with them in the coming weeks. Don’t feel the pressure to have to spend every waking moment with them. If it’s physical or emotional space that you need, let them know. When discussing boundaries, instead of starting the sentence with “you always….” , try saying something like “when you ______, I feel like….”. This is a simple way to communicate in a way that focuses on how you’re feeling without needing to blame anyone.
10. Be mindful of your technology use
Finally, the current climate has increased our technology use. It’s a wonderful time for technology, particularly in the way it is keeping us virtually connected with others.
However, constant technology use can have negative impacts on our wellbeing and mental health particularly if we are not being mindful of our use. I encourage you to reflect on how you’re using technology. While it may make you feel more connected with those online, how does it impact on your relationships with those physically around you?
If you were to put your phone down today, what are some ways you could reconnect with your physical world beyond the screen?
Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with you. Here are some links to relevant things if you’ve got the time and motivation.
- On gratitude: An Antidote to Dissatisfaction by Kurzgesagt
- The power of a smile: Everyday Leadership by Drew Dudley
- My favourite meditation app: Insight Timer