Aspirus offers tips on strengthening social bonds in the digital era

For the Tomahawk Leader

WISCONSIN – Aspirus Health recently offered tips on strengthening social bonds in the digital age.

“Human beings are inherently social creatures,” Aspirus said in a release. “From the moment we are born, relationships help us navigate the world, teaching us how to interact, express ourselves and build communities. These connections are essential not just in childhood, but throughout our lives, significantly impacting our overall health and well-being.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three adults in the U.S. experiences loneliness, while one in four lacks adequate social and emotional support.

Aspirus said these factors are associated with increased susceptibility to various health challenges, including heart disease, stroke, dementia, depression and anxiety.

“Social connections are just a part of being human,” said Tracy Clay, a Family Medicine Nurse Practitioner at Aspirus Health. “Without social connections, we’re isolated. Isolation can lead to depression.”

Clay. Photo courtesy of Aspirus Health.

The good news is that in today’s digital age, connecting with others is easier than ever before, Aspirus noted.

“We don’t have to rely on just pen and paper, and we don’t have to rely on just calling someone,” Clay stated.

While texting has become a popular mode of communication, Clay encourages more personal interactions.

“Seeing people face to face, interacting, reading their responses is super important,” she said.

Social media platforms offer another avenue for maintaining connections.

“It’s fun to watch people’s pictures scroll by,” Clay stated. “It gives you that connection. You see their faces. You see their pictures.”

“Beyond social media, technologies like FaceTime have made it possible to connect visually with loved ones, enhancing the feeling of closeness,” Aspirus stated. “Teaching elderly individuals to use such technology can bring joy and a sense of connection to their lives. However, Clay warns against the overuse of social media. Constantly comparing oneself to others based on curated snapshots can be detrimental.”

“We have to remember that those snapshots we see on social media are also oftentimes staged,” she noted.

Aspirus said limiting time spent on these platforms is essential to avoid feelings of inadequacy and isolation.

Clay suggests practical steps to reduce social media use, such as placing your phone in another room and engaging in real-world activities.

“If I put my phone down and I go outside, I might see a real person, and that would be helpful too,” she added.

“Building and nurturing social connections can take time and effort,” Aspirus said.

Aspirus provided the following tips from the CDC and National Institutes of Health (NIH) to enhance social wellness:

  • Nurture relationships: Regularly make time to visit with those you cherish and catch up on each other’s lives.
  • Get involved: Join community groups, take classes or volunteer. Engaging in shared activities can help form meaningful bonds.
  • Be active together: Participate in physical activities with others. This can positively impact your health and create opportunities for connection.
  • Support and appreciate others: Show gratitude and support to those around you through small acts of kindness.
  • Bond with your kids: Build strong emotional bonds with your children by being responsive, supportive and available.
  • Limit social media: Reduce practices that lead to feelings of disconnection, such as excessive social media use.
  • Consult healthcare providers: Talk to a healthcare provider about concerns related to stress, loneliness, and social isolation.

Social connections profoundly impact our mental and physical health, Aspirus said.

“Without relationships and social connection, we don’t have a lot of meaning frequently in our lives,” Clay stated. “By taking steps to enhance our social wellness, we can improve our quality of life and foster a sense of belonging and support in our communities.”

For those seeking additional support, visit www.aspirus.org/find-a-provider to connect with an Aspirus healthcare provider in your area.

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