The lack of social sustainability this year has been unsettling for many – as we are quickly arriving upon the anniversary of COVID-19, it’s important to reflect and prepare for the continuous mold of our social lives. With no clear end in sight of the virus and its stipulations at this moment, it’s natural to feel uneasy.
Socializing is one of our natural resources as human beings: we seek, arrange, and rearrange our lives for it because it is an inherent desire. In order to best adapt to our new environment and live harmoniously within ourselves, we need to find ways to keep our social lives feasible and accessible. A sense of love, belonging, friendship, and connection is essential to happiness, regardless of the source.
How can we maintain social sustainability while protecting our health during COVID-19?
I’ve gathered 3 simple strategies to help us remain authentically social, explore deeper into ourselves, and stay well-connected to our environment in these disconcerting times:
- Lose the Like
- Connect with Nature
- Spend Time with Yourself
Lose the Like
Social media is a tool, and like any other, it needs to be used properly in order to lay the foundation of your goals and desires. The improper, superficial use of social media has created an illusive community and phony sense of belonging that often leaves us unfulfilled.
During times of isolation and quarantine, it is especially important to avoid environments that create more loneliness than they resolve. The depreciation of authentic human connection is at an all-time high at this moment in history. We’re living between isolation for health-safety concerns and a wave of compulsivity conditioned in our minds by our pocket computers.
Social media provides momentary gratification but lacks the depths of connections we crave - your “friends” likes and retweets feel good for the moment, but the relationships social media creates are not authentic enough to sustain us. Social media is like nourishing your body with processed food - it's cheap, convenient, and often tastes good, but harms you in the end. Like a well-balanced meal to your body, feed your social connection what it deserves.
This simple strategy will return time and energy by helping you develop a higher sense of presence and appreciation of what is actually happening in your life. Rather than settling to be another like on a friend’s Instagram post, consider reaching out to them personally. Give them a call, send them a personal text, set up a video conference together! Personal conversations are more valuable and humane than pushing a button could ever be. Even a brief video chat will benefit you and the person on the other end of the line. Let’s help each other through this challenging time by means of authenticity.
How Does Nature Affect Personal Social Sustainability?
Nature heals. Our connection with nature is deep-rooted in our evolution and allows us to contextualize ourselves in the midst of anxiety. Nature acts as our mirror and reflects back to us all that we are at our core. Nature teaches us what our fundamental state of being is: present, accepting, and at peace with our surroundings. As stress and anxiety are reduced, we are reintroduced to our most natural state of rest and simply being. With national crisis comes national anxiety – nature provides us with a sense of belonging and orientation in the world.
We’ve convinced ourselves that human problems and fears make or break the functionality of the planet; spending time with nature and the creator strips us entirely of our false ego. We can cultivate the understanding that our intrinsic responsibility is to adapt and care for the Earth.
Socializing with nature gives us a renewed appreciation of our planet and ourselves. Nature can be defined and enjoyed at whatever capacity it is that you are capable of enjoying it at. Lay under a tree, take a drive to the mountains, plan a social distanced picnic with your friends or colleagues. Time with nature is time with yourself. When you are at peace with you who are, you are at peace with your surroundings. The effect of this is long-lasting. Those who come into contact with you will feel the peace radiating from you, easing every social situation.
Why Knowing Yourself Is Important for Social Sustainability
Socialization starts and ends with you. Our brains crave stimulation. The brain is the most powerful muscle in the body and it must be exercised to be in functioning shape. Self-socialization leads to self actualization! Now is a great time to do some reflecting on what it is that holds importance to you. What is it that you want to be known for? Where do you position yourself in society? What is the one thing you’ve always wanted to do but have yet to start? Is it procrastination, fear, or lack of understanding? Is it a lack of knowledge on a particular subject that holds you back? Is it perhaps a lack of knowledge of yourself?
If you’re unsure where to start, here are a few questions to ask yourself. I recommend translating your thoughts to paper. Journaling can be a very effective tool in helping you learn about yourself, your desires, and your guiding morals.
- What are my strengths?
- What are my short-term goals? Long-term goals?
- Who matters most to me? Who are my support people?
- What am I ashamed of?
- What do I like to do for fun?
- What new activities am I interested in or willing to try?
- What am I worried about?
- Where do I feel safest?
- What or who gives me comfort?
- If I wasn’t afraid, I would ____
Knowledge is timeless, it is important to be a student of life. It could be that the uncharted territory we are living in has created space from others you were accustomed to socializing with, or maybe the everyday stress of going to an office! Utilize the space and distance from others to become closer with yourself.
Once you finalize answers to the important questions, do some research. Read a book! There is a book for everything. Learning from the knowledge of others will help you learn more about yourself. Nothing lasts forever and this chapter will eventually come to an end. When it does, you’ll want to reflect on how your time was spent. Make an effort to spend it wisely.
Photo Credit: "Spring Fling 6 - Group Photo - Hands Up Version" by Gregory Pleau; "dislike button" by Sean MacEntee; "Treetops HDR" by Kurayba; "Journal writing" by Jesse Wagstaff