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Welcome to the fourth lesson in our five-week series on self-appreciation. So far, we have discussed how to start your day, and things you can do before starting work and during your workday to refocus your mind on caring about and honoring yourself and your well-being. Today, we are going to talk about the importance of connecting to our loved ones.

Us humans are social creatures. We have intuitively known this throughout history, as every single culture has its own means of celebrating social connections, as well as using social isolation as a means of punishment. Throughout the last century, as scientific research results became more widely available through publications, hundreds of studies have been conducted on the effects of social isolation on children and adults. The results have been unanimous, humans need social interactions and connections to remain mentally healthy. Isolation leads to depression and anxiety, while severe isolation can even lead to death.

In the era of technology, we spend way too much time in front of screens and too little time making real connections to real people. With the addition of social distancing and quarantine guidelines during the COVID19 pandemic, we are at entirely new levels of social isolation. It is extremely important for our psychological and spiritual well being to make the effort to reach out to our loved ones in a real way. By that, I mean that although it is alright to spend time on a social media app, and click ‘like’ on other people’s posts, those interactions are not enough. A real connection is between two people, and has some level of depth to it.

If you live with people that you have a good relationship with, make sure to ask them about their day. If you live alone, or with people you don’t like, call someone or arrange to meet for coffee (outdoors, six feet apart, and wearing masks for now). If in-person interactions are not possible, text someone a warm message. Send a message to someone on social media. Make it sincere, rather than superficial. When I think of someone during the day, I send them a text telling them I was just thinking about them or that I miss them. If I see a news article, a meme, or a social media post that reminds me of someone, I send it to them to let them know they are on my mind. Almost always I get a warm response, telling me they are happy to hear from me.

You may ask what reaching out to others has to do with self-appreciation. This exercise is a validation that you are not alone, and that there are others out there who care about you. It doesn’t take more than a minute or two and it is very important for your well being. When you get a warm response from someone, the stress and hardships of the day feel a bit lighter and less oppressive. You may also be reminded of what is really important in your life. Usually when we connect with someone we love, we get a subconscious reminder that all the money and power cannot replace them in our lives.

Remember, I’m not telling you to buy your mother flowers and go visit her for three hours every day. Most of us don’t have that kind of time and money. Also, you don’t need to connect to the same person every day if you don’t wish to. Just make sure you reach out to at least one person and let them know you care about them at least once a day. The more you do this, the more you will reap the benefits of it. Be genuine, and if you don’t feel connected to someone, don’t try to force it. If someone is very critical of you and cannot be warm towards you, don’t reach out to them, pick someone else.

Try this for a week and let me know how it went. I always love to hear feedback on these exercises.

Back row: my father and mother, Front Row: Myself, my brother, and my sister

I am very close to my family of origin and we have been through a lot together. The death of my father back in 2015 was a heavy blow to my family, but strangely enough, it served as a reminder of the power of having a good support system.

The day after our dad died, I went with my mom, sister, and brother to a funeral parlor to meet with the director and make arrangements. It felt as if we signed hundreds of pieces of paper, and my sister kept asking “who is Jack Schmidt*” in the midst of everything. We were irritated with her and kept dismissing her, but she insisted that we look closely at this one document. It turned out that had we signed that piece of paper, we would have received and cremated the body of Jack Schmidt instead of that of our dad’s.

This set off a series of hypothetical scenarios the three of us siblings started listing off, in each of which we would have had to deal with the wrong body. Each imagined scenario was wilder and more outrageous than the one before it. In the middle of our grieving, our tears were mixed with deep belly laughs as we imagined all of these ridiculous scenes. We accused our trickster dad of trying to pull a fast one on us from the other side. The poor funeral director was trying to keep a dignified countenance, but she was laughing so hard that she kept dropping her pen on purpose to hide under the table and laugh without offending us.

I know this sounds like a silly example, but it shows the importance of having your loved ones with you in hard times. I don’t know how any of us would have made it through the grief had it not been for the love and support of the others. The pain of the loss of my father still stings to this day, but the love of my family and friends help me deal with it. Never take your loved ones for granted!

*I made up that name as I genuinely don’t remember the real name, and if I did, I wouldn’t have used it anyway.

Sayeh Beheshti, M.D.

1 Comment

  1. Sharon E Wulfensmith on November 6, 2020 at 3:55 pm

    Dear “Jack,”
    Thank you for your gift of laughter to a grieving family. You are a real card. From wherever you are now, keep tossing down those gems of joy. We all could use a few more these days.

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