Mental Health Matters ~ Sonoma Valley Sun

Sonoma Valley Sun


The present of presence

Posted on December 2, 2023 by Sonoma Valley Sun

By Marissa La Brecque | For The Sun —

In a world that has become increasingly isolated and disconnected, it’s crucial to recognize the profound impact of human connection on our health and happiness. Loneliness can make us feel powerless. Perhaps we can empower ourselves by giving the gift of presence and connection to others this season. To whom can you offer your light, in the darkest months of the year?

Humans are inherently wired for social connection. Connecting is as essential to our long-term survival as food and water. However, in today’s digitally driven society, we are experiencing an epidemic of loneliness. The U.S. Surgeon General has released an advisory that loneliness has become the most prevalent health issue in the United States.

The advisory also highlights that social connection has a transformative effect on individuals. It reduces the risk of premature mortality, contributes to better physical and mental health, and alleviates stress. Moreover, it can positively influence health-related behaviors and impact educational and economic achievement. The message is clear: fostering connections with others can lead to healthier, happier lives for all.

During the holidays, some of us will have chances to fill our emotional coffers with family and friends. Many of us will not. This time can feel even more lonely because of that disparity. If you need someone to talk to, there are resources. Hanna Center’s Mental Health Hub has therapists available to help. 

Take an hour that you might normally spend online and do something that fulfills you- walk somewhere pretty; call an older relative; dance; cook your favorite foods; sing loudly. It really doesn’t matter what it is, if it reminds you how sweet it can be to live. Even better if you can share that with someone else. 

Fostering social connection requires commitment from each one of us. We can start by being present, putting down our screens, and truly listening to one another. Acts of kindness, empathy, and support can go a long way in strengthening our relationships and communities.

This holiday season let’s heed the Surgeon General’s advice and prioritize relationships. It’s not just about the gatherings or festivities; it’s about the people we share them with. We can make this holiday season truly joyful and, in doing so, improve our overall well-being. Is there a better gift than that?

Marissa La Brecque is the director of the Hanna Institute at Hanna Center in Sonoma County and an author.

Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA