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Strategies for More Satisfying Social Connections During the Pandemic

School Your Social life with Nod.

Building a fulfilling social life at college is incredibly important and that the circumstances we are under right now make this even more difficult. While it’s critical we stick to our community guidelines for safe socializing, we still need to take care of our social well-being during these challenging times. 

That’s why we’re offering a tool for just this purpose - Nod is an app that offers research-backed ideas and tips for building social connections in college. You can find Nod in the Apple and Google Play stores. It’s free for Arkansas State University-Newport students, faculty, and staff- just download and sign in using your campus credentials 

So what can we do to feel more connected even if there are restrictions on socializing? Check out these four tips from Nod for some inspiration:     

Tip #1: Start with some self-compassion 

Begin by acknowledging that this situation you’re in is hard and that you’re experiencing suffering. It sounds straightforward, but we’re typically more inclined to do this for others and  than for ourselves. We tend to think ‘I shouldn’t be feeling this way’. Acknowledging our hurt opens the possibility of responding with compassion. A great trick to get in this mindset is to ask yourself- what would a kind friend, family member, or other caring person say to me? Take that inspiration and deliver yourself a dose of compassion. Now we can zoom out and appreciate that while it can feel like it at times, we are not alone in our suffering. During this pandemic many people have trying experiences, and what we’re going through gives us something in common with the rest of humanity. This self-compassion practice can be a particularly helpful practice if you’ve fallen into the social media compare-and-despair trap (we all do). When you see that picture of people socializing in a way that you can’t or that is not safe for you- recognize this is hard, be kind to yourself, and know that you’re not alone. 

Tip #2: Draw on your deeply held values 

When we’re trying to take on a new behavior that is hard- like maintaining a restrictive quarantine for 14 days or maintaining social distancing and wearing a mask it can help to connect that to a higher order value that is important to us. In a journal or on your phone write down 3-5 values that are important to you. Examples of values are things like learning, honesty, balance, love, responsibility, and self-respect. Now create two columns- one to write actions that you do that are aligned with your values, and a second to write actions that you do (or are tempted to do) that are not aligned with your values. This is a great exercise to help bring clarity when you’re making a decision about socializing that involves assessing the risk- when you stop and look at what really matters to you does this align? Or does it work against your values? 

Tip #3 Connect with others through kindness 

There are lots of ways to interact socially, but some are especially reliable for boosting our mood and strengthening bonds. In the Nod app we provide lots of ideas to translate this into your life. Here are a few selections: 

  • Organize people to connect and help each other. Create a group chat to help people stay in touch, organize food delivery to someone who is stuck in quarantine, invite classmates to a virtual study group...   

  • Seek out and invite people to a social event that is safe and in keeping with the guidelines in your area. It shows you care and are thinking of them. Maybe it’s a DJ live streaming on twitch, a sound bath experience on insta, a sports event you can watch while chatting on houseparty, a walk with masks, or a gaming session. 

  • Craft an awesome safe hangout plan- people will appreciate you making the effort. Making plans in advance gives us the flexibility to have fun while keeping an eye on safety. Maybe it’s badminton in the backyard in a mask, or a Zoom trivia night, making sidewalk art to support a social movement... 

Tip #4: Process your experiences 

When we do get to connect with others, whether it’s virtual or in-person, there’s a sort of comet tail that trails behind the interaction. Our internal dialogue kicks in and we start to evaluate how it went. Our interpretation can have a big impact on how we feel, what we believe about ourselves and our situation. The Nod app offers guided reflections to help you pause to savor positive social experiences or to process difficult ones. This can help us stay hopeful and motivated even when our social experience isn’t ideal- a state we’ve all experienced during the pandemic. Here are a few prompts you can try out: 

  • Get some perspective - Picture what your life will be like 10 years in the future. From that new point of view, ask yourself:  In 10 years, how will I feel about this experience? How is that different from how I feel about it right now? 

  • Give your mind a break - Do something good for your mind that feels rewarding. Here’s a bit of inspiration: Find a new thought-provoking podcast, practice meditation, play a game, draw or play music, hang up an inspirational picture 

  • Appreciate things that we can take for granted - Many people play a role in making our own lives nicer. Those who grow and harvest our food, fix roads, drive delivery vehicles, risk their lives to take care of our health, create art and music… Take a moment to focus on the many ways others contribute to our lives. 

Think of these four tips as part of your social life self-care. Practicing them can help us maintain a level of social well-being that makes us less prone to resort to risky socializing in order to get our needs met. Know that like most well-being activities the impact increases the more we can make these practices part of our routine. And because it can’t be said too many times-  his is hard, be kind to yourself, and know that you’re not alone. 

Find Nod on the Apply and Google Play stores