Social interaction is a fundamental part of our lives – whether we’re doing a lot or a little. In our research, we’ve heard many times that social interaction can feel overwhelming, but that even the smallest acts of social connection can make the biggest difference to your sense of wellbeing, connection and belonging – particularly when you’re feeling low, anxious or isolated. But these small acts can brighten your day at any time, and by reaching out to others, you can brighten their day too. They can also lead to deeper connections.
In our Community Health Networks Study we heard from several people how a spontaneous conversation with the staff in a local shop, or with someone you regularly cross paths with in a park or bus stop, could help increase self-confidence and a sense of belonging, and serve as stepping stones to mental health recovery by encouraging more connection.
Case study: “Reconnecting with society requires small steps and persistence of goals”…
“One participant in our Viewpoint survey told us about how she decided to interact with people after a long period of illness by smiling at everyone she met wherever she went.
After some weeks, she started to say ‘morning’ or ‘afternoon,’ and people started to respond likewise. Soon she was engaging in social banter and felt a real connection with her ‘community.’ She didn’t worry about times when people didn’t seem to respond to her as she was treating people the way she wanted to be treated while spreading a bit of sunshine and joy in her neighbourhood”
Solveig Warren, Interviewer – Viewpoint study
Here are some ‘small acts’ you can try yourself, or suggest to others:
- Small: Engage in conversation with someone you regularly say hello to – perhaps your local shopkeeper or librarian
- Smaller: Say hello to someone you often see but have never spoken to before – for example, at the park, your local shop, or at a bus stop
- Smallest: Smile at someone you regularly see out and about at work or in the community