The human need for connection isn’t one that’s easily defined. Each of us has our own way of relating to others as a function of our own identities and boundaries. No matter what your tribe may look like (or its size), regular socialization with others who reflect a bit of ourselves is a healthy way to stay connected to the community around us. Our brains crave that interaction, and it’s an important component of mindset and overall mental wellbeing.
During Mental Health Awareness Month, take time to practice these essential mindfulness practices to foster greater connection with those around you:
- Breathe in the world around you
Practice body and breath awareness with slow, controlled breathing exercises. If you’re near people, consider the faces of those near you. Imagine their stories. Breathe and be aware of your surroundings.
- Practice mindful eating
A healthy part of social interaction involves food, but that can sometimes lead to mindless eating. Appreciate your food by eating slowly and thoughtfully, with intention. Pay attention to how foods affect you and listen for your body’s cues that you’re full. Mindful eating is the foundation for better nutrition and more enjoyable interaction with others.
- Move more
Combat stress and build mental resilience by taking a regular walk with a friend. If you’re the competitive type, challenge a friend to a game of basketball or a round of golf. Exercise triggers the release of hormones that contribute to happiness, helping us to de-stress and improving the quality of our sleep.
- Unplug for a brain health break
Screen time of any type takes us away from the world around us. Too much screen time can have detrimental effects on our brains and has shown the potential for permanent damage to developing brains and their ability to build human relationships. Walk with your head up, correcting your posture to build confidence and purposeful movement.
- Exercise your facial muscles
Smiling releases endorphins and lifts the mood. Even when our minds struggle to find happiness, a genuine smile can act as a mood booster just when we—and others—need it most.
- Schedule time with others
Make it a point to set a date and meet up with a friend or a group of friends once a week. Regular face-to-face interaction creates lasting connection and helps us build friendships on shared experiences and fun memories.
- Share healing touch
From birth, we’re programmed to need human touch as reassurance. While it’s healthy to have boundaries and respect the boundaries of others, don’t pass up an opportunity for an honest handshake, a hug, or a pat on the shoulder. You can even schedule a touch session—it’s called a massage, and the mental health benefits of massage include reduced stress. Is it partially because of the element of touch? You decide!
- Indulge your inner child
Playing games isn’t just child’s play. Game-playing invariably leads to some physical activity, social interaction, and smiling, all of which contribute to building those happy hormones and helping lift our mood. Board games even bring out the playful side of life and help us take a break from the normal routine.
- Consult with a mindset specialist
Just like it’s OK to schedule a massage when you’re stressed, achy or just need to relax, it’s also OK to reach out to someone who specializes in the care of the human mind.
At CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, we serve the whole person and offer behavior health services with the guidance of licensed psychologists. Think of these professionals as trainers that help you build resilience of the mind. Schedule that massage, schedule that personal training session, and schedule a session with a professional who can help you improve your mindset—it’s all part of a total wellness package that honors your need for human interaction and connection.