We hear it a lot, and as a yoga teacher I say it a lot: we're all connected. But what does it even mean to be connected? Sure, we can contact and receive a reply from almost anyone we know in a matter of seconds, but perhaps more often than not, we feel disconnected: living far away from family, learning about milestones in a friend's life via Facebook, and going months without sitting on a patch of grass.
So how do we get back in touch? How do we feel like we're participating in the world rather than just watching it on a screen?
The world is different now, and it will be different again tomorrow, and that's okay. But we don't want to lose our connection to each other and to the planet we live on, so these are eight ideas I try to practice in my life as often as possible.
The health benefits are reason enough: time spent in nature can ease depression and increase your ability to concentrate. We can also see and experience first-hand the consequences of what we do: a clean, well-manicured park or a pile of trash in the gutter; lungs full of fresh air or a hand over our mouths as we pass an idling truck.
Walking outside without shoes on is called earthing and, according to this study, "appears to be one of the simplest and yet most profound interventions for helping reduce cardiovascular risk and cardiovascular events." Plus, it's really pleasant to feel different surfaces under your toes: concrete, sand, grass.
Preferably, something to eat! It's a great reminder of where our food comes from and how attentive care is rewarded.
Call Instead of Text
If you don't need an immediate answer, or when a yes or no will do, texting is brilliant. But if you're looking at a discussion that will involve a lot of back and forth, just pick up the phone and call. Don't want to interrupt? Text and ask when it would be a good time to call. You'll work through the situation more quickly and with less opportunity to misread a tone.
Put the Phone Down
Have you ever ignored what was happening in front of you — even if it was dinner with a loved one — to consult your phone? Choose some times to put the phone away and really notice what's going on around you. Next time you're waiting in line, instead of passing the time with a game or Facebook browsing, just observe the people and the situation. Allow yourself to feel — whoa — bored.
Write a Handwritten Note
Did you ever have a penpal, and was it not the most wonderful feeling to know there was mail waiting for you? A handwritten letter doesn't have to be long, and it will only take a matter of minutes to write one and pop it in an envelope. You could do it during the time you're determined not to check your phone.
Take a Class
We're all about the great availability and convenience of online learning, but even though we can YouTube how to do just about anything, there's something to be said for getting in front of a teacher and learning the skill in the presence of the master.
Recognize Our Fellow Humans
News is easy to find nowadays, even when we're not looking for it, and the stuff that's thrown at us is rarely good. It's easy to let every suffering face become a statistic or fable from a faraway land, but the truth is that every face is a person not unlike us. Pause to consider that person. Maybe we can't help everyone, but we can send some loving thoughts their way.
How do you practice staying connected?