Simple Ways to Overcome Your Barriers to Socialize
Three years into the pandemic, many of us are still struggling to find our “new normal.” The way that we live, work, and socialize has completely changed, leaving many of the community aspects of life behind.
Earlier this year, Arthur Brooks, a Harvard professor and PhD social scientist, wrote an article called, “How We Learned to Be Lonely.” This article articulates the way so many of us have been feeling lately, but maybe haven’t been able to put into words. He brought up a lot of important points that got me thinking about the importance of community and how that relates back to my own yoga practice.
Why Have We Become Hesitant to Socialize?
In the article, Brooks explains that community can be healing after experiencing times of crisis. However, in the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw the opposite happen as isolation forced people into their own bubbles forming what he calls, “habitual loneliness.”
He goes on to say, “If you’ve sought remote work instead of in-person work out of convenience, chosen one-to-one activities over group activities out of awkwardness, or have chosen not to reconnect with old friendships out of sheer numbness, you may be stuck in a pattern of learned solitude.”
It’s hard to break out of patterns of isolation because loneliness affects executive function, which are the skills needed to make a phone call, reach out to a friend, or make social plans. That’s why you may feel lonely, yet struggle to make the first step to reach out to your community or social circle.
Getting Back into Community Spaces
Why is it so hard to try new things and go back to doing activities in real life? I found myself having a hard time getting dressed, packing a bag, getting out the door– all things I did daily when I worked in an office.
It turns out that the uncomfortableness we feel when trying something new is just a muscle we have to exercise. The more we do it, the more it will be good for us.
Brooks offers some advice to overcome the uncomfortable obstacles of socializing more or trying a new activity outside the home. Similarly to building a muscle, he compares it to starting a new exercise routine; it’ll be uncomfortable at first, but you will feel better afterwards:
“To break the cycle, you may need to try a “countersignal” strategy. Your indolence is probably telling you that getting dressed and going to work will be a hassle, and asking someone over to dinner will be awkward. You should definitely do these things. Think of it as starting an exercise routine after a long period of sedentary life (another common COVID problem). At first your system complains bitterly, but as you push through the discomfort you soon find that you can exercise (or socialize) easily because it has become routine and because you can feel it improving your life.”
How I Found Community Again Through a Yoga Practice
One way to build this new social “muscle” is to add classes or activities outside of the house into your weekly schedule. This past year, I started going to yoga classes in the evening, which is the perfect transition from work. Yoga classes or any other type of workout classes are a great activity because they check the box of exercise, socialization, and community all in one.
It was a welcomed positive change in my life, as I felt the isolation and sedentary lifestyle of long working hours affecting my life and energy. Taking one hour to be completely present without technology and constant notifications can do wonders for your mental health and overall stress levels.
Are you looking to try a new yoga class but don’t know where to begin?
Here’s some tips for getting started:
- Look for small group classes: If you don’t like the idea of a large group, try looking for small group classes, as they can be more accommodating to the individual.
- Arrive early and lay/sit with eyes closed or socialize with others: Do you want to be in a group setting but are not ready or wanting to socialize? It’s okay to set up before the beginning of class, either sitting or laying on the floor with our eyes closed as other participants enter and set up. Your teacher and others will know to leave you space before class begins.
- Meet the instructor beforehand: If you have any questions or special accommodations, it might help to meet the instructor beforehand. This can help put you at ease and make you feel more comfortable before the first class.
- Take a friend with you: It’s always easier to try new things in pairs. Grab a friend and try out a new class together.
- Try just one class to start: Tell yourself that you’ll just try out one class. The first step to starting a habit is showing up.
Try out these tips and see how it goes. You can also set weekly goals to try new activities until it becomes second nature again. No matter how busy life gets, we have to remember that social interaction and community are essential to our well-being.
After laying out some actionable plans, Brooks closes out the article with a great reminder that we can learn from:
“If you can remember the warmth and happiness of your old social self and make a few changes, 2023 can be a year of renewal.”
Attend Small Group Yoga Classes in Boise, Idaho
Are you local to Boise, Idaho and looking to start a yoga practice? Julie Watson Yoga offers small group classes and private sessions at her yoga studio space to help relieve stress, build resilience, care for acute and chronic pain, and support neurological conditions and disorders. She also offers virtual sessions for those located outside of Boise. Reach out for a free consultation or book a class today.