During the physical distancing of  Covid19  we are invited to nurture social and human connections

The experience of living under COVID19 may be an opportunity to “reset how we approach relationships and to revisit the place that relationships have in our lived priority list”.

These are the words of  Dr. Vivek Murthy  who served as the 19th surgeon general of the United States. He’s the author of the book “Together: The Healing Power Of Human Connection In A Sometimes Lonely World” and was recently interviewed in National Public Radio by Shankar Vedantam, host of the program Hidden Brain.

In the interview, Dr Murthy talks about the situation the world is experiencing with the current pandemic. He believes that this is potentially an opportunity “for us to rethink and recenter our lives around relationships, to recognize once again and perhaps even more deeply appreciate the role and power that relationships have in our lives”.

For him the term ‘social distancing’ is a misnomer. He advocates for the term physical distancing.  “ What we’re seeking to do is to physically distance people, but what happens to our social connection is up to us” he says. And he offers some  practical ideas:

Connection to self and embracing solitude

Connecting to self, he comments,  “allows us to focus again on being”. His examples are : Simply spending five minutes sitting outside and feeling the wind against your face or spending time just listening to the birds chirping or to the conversation around you and just experiencing your breath as it goes in or out. That experience of solitude, however it comes, can be extraordinarily powerful and calming”.

Something he likes to practice is through gratitude. “ Taking five minutes to just remember three things that we’re grateful for”.

Dr Murphy believes that two components to connection to self and to  self-acceptance are self-knowledge and self-compassion.

Connecting to others

Because Connection to self, is the foundation that we need to connect to other people. When we’re connected to ourselves, we understand that we have self-worth. We understand that we have value to bring to the world”.

For Dr. Murthy this implies making an effort to maintain opportunities for quality relationships and dedicating time to cultivate them.

Stretching ourselves in service

He says that if  you want “to feel more connected to others, the best thing to do might not be to ask why others are not reaching out to you but ask how you can be of service to others. Service in some ways can be an antidote to loneliness”.

Services  is a natural and highly effective way of connecting with other people, he says. And this is so because the  “biology of loneliness makes us turn our focus inward and leads to a general chipping away of our self-esteem over time as we come to believe that we’re lonely because we’re not likeable”.  Instead, “what service does is  shift the focus from us to someone else in the context of a positive experience”.

But when it comes to service, he points “one of the greatest gifts that we can give another person is the gift of our full attention”.

Service might not always mean helping somebody fix something but simply showing up and listening. “It  can be an extraordinarily powerful experience and a very powerful antidote to loneliness and to disconnection”.

He recommends to look at the opportunities to serve “with an open mind, a full heart and a desire to truly honestly and openly connect with another human being”.

You can listen to the pod cast,  at NPR, that also offers a full transcription of the interview. The book can be purchased on line. ( A. Cantero)