Invest in relationships and community during the holiday season.
“Scholars have long known that the absence of social relationships can hurt mental health,” says Tim Smith, a professor at BYU who has extensively studied how social relationships impact both physical and mental health.
“It is always more interesting in the moment to get on social media and watch someone do a backflip off a 30-foot-tall building than it is to take the time to engage in our relationships,” he says. “It’s a classic case of a short-term, literally 10-second gain, destroying the gains of decades. We’re letting the immediacy of entertainment prevent us from experiencing joy, which necessarily requires sacrifice and engagement.”
Our most enduring, impactful, intimate relationships are with family and friends.
“With social media, people are finding ways to spend time that generates the illusion of being social. When you take the word “social” out of “social media” it’s actually just media. It’s indirectly social, but you don’t have the same level of intimacy. Just as physical health requires being aware of exercise, diet, and sleep, people need to become more conscious and aware of their social engagement, how much time they are spending in front of screens, and human connectivity.
Humans are designed for intimacy and physical and spiritual connectivity. When we go against that, we are not being fully human.
Smith pointed out the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which started in 1938 and expanded and continued across generations to the present day. The study seeks “clues to leading healthy and happy lives,” according to the Harvard Gazette, its most strong and enduring finding has been, that happiness in relationships is a key component to a fulfilling life.
The loneliness that exists amongst our elderly and our young people is at epidemic levels, the need to connect applies to people of all ages--especially in these times that have been dubbed ”The Great Resignation.” People of all ages are quitting or distancing themselves from jobs, churches, professional organizations, political parties, and opportunities for education, and distancing themselves from social groups, and from personal relationships.
During the Christmas holidays, I encourage you to say “YES” to opportunities to connect in the community and in family activities. Put yourself in settings where you challenge those first emotional responses to retreat, hide, isolate or withdraw. Lean into any social anxiety you might be experiencing and access the courage to move through it, instead of being so quick to avoid social engagement, be willing to allow them into your life and actually participate. Doing this will help facilitate your basic need for connectivity. Practicing social interaction will help build confidence and actually, the anxiety will start to subside.
While you are opening up to more social interaction with individuals and in the community, remember that a great place to start with increased connectivity is in the relationships you already have. You CAN nurture and feed your current relationships so that they remain strong and intact.
Ways to strengthen existing attachments and bonds of love and connectivity during the holidays.
Express words often of appreciation and gratitude
Spend quality time together (games, puzzles, baking cookies, doing service together)
Cuddle and snuggle
Offer small gifts or love notes
Build something together
Engage in meaningful conversations
Engage in an outdoor activity together (walking, raking leaves, gardening, snowball fights, snowshoeing, skiing, sledding, etc.)
Include past holiday traditions or create new ones!
I want to wish you joy and happiness during the holidays. May your hearts be filled with rich and deep connections to loved ones. I believe with all my heart that refreshing current relationships or building new ones will help you access the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas is Connectivity!
God Bless us, Everyone!