Experts at Chiva-Som and Zulal Wellness Resort Spotlight the Importance of Connections

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Humans are social creatures by nature. And social connections seem to play a critical role in living longer and healthier lives.

Every person we interact with is a member of our social network: relatives, friends, neighbours, coworkers and even acquaintances. Yet finding the time to build, enhance and maintain social connections seems to be getting harder and harder, with pressures at work, in the home, and now due to COVID-19.

Sukanya Koonpon, Health & Wellness Advisor at Chiva-Som Hua Hin, shares how connections promote health, and how to maintain relationships even if only online. Joelle Alkhoury, Family & Child Specialist at Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som, then gives practical steps to follow to find the time for connection.

HOW CONNECTIONS PROMOTE HEALTH
BY SUKANYA KOONPON, HEALTH & WELLNESS ADVISOR OF CHIVA-SOM

The term “social connection” refers to “feeling a part of something larger than yourself, feeling close or connected to another person or group, feeling welcomed and understood.” The root of all our desires is a need to be loved and to belong. The quality of our social connections also matters, how much we engage with important, supportive people in our lives in ways that increase our sense of belonging and wellbeing.

Engaging and partaking in social activities have been shown to provide the following health benefits:

MENTAL HEALTH

Increased feelings of belonging and purpose, higher self-esteem and more empathy for others, more confident, cooperative and open to trusting others
Happier as a result of the release of oxytocin, the “love hormone”, and serotonin, the “happy hormone”
Higher resiliency to stress, lower levels of anxiety and decreased depression
Improved memory and cognitive skills

PHYSICAL HEALTH

Increased motivation for self-care and positive behaviours
Improved eating and exercise habits, rest and sleep quality
Lower blood pressure and reduced risk for cardiovascular disease due to enhanced mood

IMMUNITY

Lower levels of stress hormone and chronic inflammation
Faster recovery from physical illness and positive outlook
Increased longevity

Start with yourself and go inward if you’re unsure where to begin when it comes to creating social connections. What are your interests? What personality types do you have a natural affinity for? Make time to volunteer or join a club, take a new class, talk to a neighbour. Attend social events or engage in hobbies that you enjoy. Go for a run in a local park. Turn off your computer and go out for coffee with a buddy face to face. Social connections also start with small things such as sharing a meal, sending a birthday card, or congratulating someone on a success.

Even if you’re isolated or an introvert, you can still feel connected to others. For example, you can try loving-kindness meditation, practise compassion, or play with animals. Performing acts of kindness towards others has been shown to increase our sense of connection to strangers in just a few minutes.

WAYS TO STAY CONNECTED DURING COVID-19 AND SOCIAL DISTANCING

Over the last few years, COVID-19 has made unusual behaviours our “new normal”. Even within the family, people have been advised to adhere to social distancing norms. It is critical that we do not become completely disconnected from one another. In fact, it is more important than ever to virtually come together.

Consider scheduling regular video conferences with family and friends using video chat tools such as Zoom. Try virtual yoga or other workouts, or calm yourself with a mindfulness app.

FINDING THE TIME FOR CONNECTION
BY JOELLE ALKHOURY, FAMILY & CHILD SPECIALIST OF ZULAL WELLNESS RESORT BY CHIVA-SOM

Finding a balance between work, family time and “me” time has always been a conundrum. In particular, drawing a line between work life and home life has become more and more challenging with the advent of smartphones, working across time zones, and the culture of always being on call.

How you prioritise your time and energy matters. Adjusting your priorities to find balance will both improve your motivation, focus, engagement and productivity at work, and help you maintain satisfaction in your personal life.

Health benefits include lower levels of stress and absenteeism, and a general feeling of wellbeing. Conversely, a lack of balance in life can lead to a short temper, irritability, fatigue, poor sleep and lower immunity.

PRACTICAL STEPS TO SWITCH FROM WORK TO SOCIAL MODE

Adopt a routine activity after work that allows you to separate between work and home, for example reading a book or listening to a podcast on your commute.

When you get home, try to exercise, either alone or with a family member (which is great for bonding). Exercise helps you release the stress of the day. In addition, practising mindfulness a few times a week is a way to release mental stress.

Incorporate grounding activities into your schedule, such as walking barefoot in the garden or practising yoga on the grass. This will bring your attention back to the present away from work.

If you have family members living abroad, try to schedule a regular time for calls to stay in touch. This will help you leave your work behind and focus on your family.

MAXIMISING YOUR TIME AT WORK

To focus on accomplishing the day’s tasks, remove distractions from your workspace, and in particular limit social media browsing, as well as non-essential activities.

Break up your day into manageable sections to help you keep focus. Movement is important – getting up every 30 or 60 minutes, for example, to stretch or walk around.

Establish boundaries for yourself. It’s important to communicate clearly with your colleagues your availability after working hours.

Avoid checking your emails at home unless it’s exceptionally needed.

A calendar and to do list will help you track your work and tasks for the day, both at work and at home.

On a final note, there are many misconceptions regarding happiness. It is our connectedness, not money, power or fame, that keep us healthy, purposeful and fulfilled in our lives. Making the effort to develop and strengthen connections will have the most impact on your life and provide the greatest happiness return.

SUKANYA KOONPON
HEALTH & WELLNESS ADVISOR, CHIVA-SOM HUA HIN

Sukanya, a certified nurse, joined the Chiva-Som team in 2012. Combining her clinical knowledge with a passion for wellness and belief in the importance of education to empower, she became a senior Health & Wellness Advisor in 2019. Sukanya’s role involves consulting with guests when they first arrive at the resort, acquiring a clear picture of their health, needs and goals, and making recommendations for appropriate treatments, activities and nutrition during their stay.

JOELLE ALKHOURY
FAMILY & CHILD SPECIALIST, ZULAL WELLNESS RESORT BY CHIVA-SOM

Joelle is a passionate humanitarian and brings with her extensive experience in the fields of psychology, education, social work and research. Her background in counselling makes her perfect for her role at the resort facilitating positive child development, family bonding and parenting skills.

For more information about our wellness stories, please visit www.chivasom.com/about-blog

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