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Social contact is vital for wellbeing

Lockdown. The bane of us all. Some of us are lucky enough to have briefly seen our friends, others are diligently shielding at home. It is more difficult to maintain social contact now than ever before.

But we cannot neglect it – it is vital for our wellbeing. Even for those of you who think otherwise, humans are innately social animals and need contact with others for support, wellbeing and entertainment; that is why the punishment of ‘isolation’ in prisons, although ostensibly easy, is widely denounced as inhumane.

“You’ve been a bit wishy-washy Advait”, you may say: “what are the actual benefits?”

Firstly, it can boost your mental health. Talking with friends and family is correlated with a reduction in stress and increased feelings of purpose, belonging, happiness, self-worth and confidence – overwhelmingly positive things for your mind!

It can also help you live longer. A review by the website ‘mindwise’ indicated that individuals with stronger social relationships had a 50% higher chance of living past a set age. This conclusion held true even when controlling for factors including age and initial health status. To take a darker turn, the rate of suicide is also much lower in individuals with better social connections. So not only can it improve your mental health, but your physical health too.

Moreover, social connections can help you become a more rounded person. They can introduce you to new hobbies, sports and interests which you may find yourself obsessed with. I myself experienced this when one of my friends introduced me to Pokémon – my parents have not yet found a way to prise me away from it! Furthermore, you could learn something new (not that school is insufficient, of course).

Lastly, social contact can enrich your daily life – entertainment is hard to find during the pandemic! Watching Netflix incessantly gets tedious after a while and talking with friends and family can bring some colour to lockdown. Trust me, I was the exact same.

So, in light of the innumerable benefits, I exhort you not to fall into the trap. I challenge you to maintain social contact with your friends and family, in accordance with the realities of the pandemic, of course. Call/FaceTime someone who you haven’t spoken to in a while – it’ll not only do wonders for your mental health, but also theirs. Even better, write a letter to someone. We both know you have plenty of time to do it! Lastly, please put down your phone and converse with your household members. You have an unparalleled opportunity to get to know your family – don’t waste it.

However, please do not become entranced by social media such as Instagram or Snapchat. It is useful up to an extent, but it has a plethora of negative side effects. And, after all, nothing can truly make up for a genuine conversation or the satisfaction of receiving a carefully crafted letter.

Thank you, and good luck with your quest! Have a healthy last week of school.

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