A parcel with a note saying

Stay connected mindfully

Practices to help you feel connected to others in times of separation

Social distancing, with its separation from family and friends and the resulting lack of physical contact, can cause a big increase in feelings of loneliness and isolation. Here are some ways you can guard against that – and boost yours and your family’s and friends’ feelings of connectedness at the same time.

#1: Use your sense of kindness to reach out to others

As Jan Southern, founder of Live beyond migraine, points out:

…many more of us are experiencing the unpleasant sensation of loneliness because of the pandemic. Keeping safe means keeping a physical distance from our friends and family – even from neighbours with whom we might once have enjoyed chance meetings and a quick chat.

“The more lonely we feel, the more awkward we can feel reaching out to say hello.”

How can we reverse this process? Jan recommends listening to your innate sense of kindness and not allowing it to be overcome by doubts. Try her tips to help you feel more connected to your friends and family:

  • Text a friend to let them know you’re thinking of them.
  • Post a memory for your family that brings a smile to your face.
  • Send a card to a friend you’ve not seen – whether they live around the corner or across the globe.

Small acts of kindness can help lift your own heart as well as helping your family and friends feel connected!

For more ways to connect through kindness in difficult times, read this pebble post from our website:
This pebble says "fill a day with kindness"

#2: Practice mindful listening

Communicating successfully is as much about listening as it is about talking. Writing on mindful.org, Elaine Smookler says:

Of all our communication skills, listening is the one most called upon—and neglected … But what is listening? Often we hear something and, before we know it, we’ve labelled, categorized and shelved it. At its core, listening is really just taking time instead to experience what we’re hearing in the moment.”

Fully experiencing what you’re hearing right now brings your mind back to the present, so it’s a great mindfulness practice. Next time you have a conversation online or over the phone, see if you can practise some mindful listening. Try these ‘HEAR’ reminders from Elaine:

  1. HALT whatever you’re doing so you can give your full attention to the other person.
  2. ENJOY a breath as you choose to receive whatever is being communicated to you (wanted or unwanted).
  3. ASK yourself if you really know what the person you’re listening to means. If you don’t, ask for clarification. In this way, you bring openness and curiosity to the conversation and avoid making incorrect assumptions.
  4. REFLECT back to the other person what you’ve heard. This shows the other person you were really listening! (Greater Good Magazine have some excellent advice on how to do this in their Active listening practice).

Read Elaine’s full article for more inspiration and motivation.

#3: Share a mindful pastime with friends online

Whether your favourite pastime is creative, energetic, relaxing or nurturing, you can get more from it by:

  • Practising mindfulness while you do it, and
  • Sharing your interest and experiences with a group of friends.

Discover ways to practise your hobby mindfully here:

This pebble says "Do what you love mindfully"

You may not be able to meet up in person, but you can connect online to:

  • Share photos and experiences, or
  • Chat while you’re being creative!

Top tip: Try encouraging your group to attend live online events, such as talks about favourite hobbies and interests, then get together to chat about it afterwards. Perhaps set up a mindful mini-challenge based on ideas from the event.

#4: Send some joy

Look out for a small treat you know a friend or family member would like, then spend some mindful moments wrapping it ready to put in the post:

  • Take a few moments to hold the gift in your hands, truly looking at and feeling it, before you wrap it.
  • Notice the texture of the wrapping paper as you fold it and the sound your scissors make when you’re cutting the paper, ribbon or string.
  • Write a ‘saw this and thought of you’ message to go with the treat. Be aware of the sensations in your fingers of using a pen or typing your note.
  • Pause for a moment before you pop your gift in the post; think about the person who’ll receive the treat. In your head, say to them “May you be well. May you be happy. May you be free from suffering.”

Enjoy your practice and stay safe and connected!

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