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Fall 2021 Newsletter Feature: Promoting Social Well-being

Q&A with Dr. Ted Robles, EngageWell Pod Co-Leader

How can students improve or maintain their social well-being with our return to campus?

Do things together – from fun stuff to studying. Talk to one another and share experiences, both the good ones but also the stressful ones. Reframe social interactions – yes they can be time- and energy-consuming, yes you’ll be self-conscious – but if you view them as an opportunity to learn about other people’s lives and expand your understanding of the world that can help reduce some of that fatigue and anxiety. Be an attentive listener.

The Semel Healthy Campus Initiative Center’s 2021 Virtual Celebration this past May was called, “#BruinsTogether”. What is the idea behind #BruinsTogether?

The original idea was to create a hashtag campaign that encourages people to share how they’ve been able to maintain their connections during the pandemic. It also reflects an important way that we can promote healthy behaviors, from vaccination to masking to sustainability – by associating those acts of selflessness with what it means to be a Bruin. Any time we think of or use our common identity as Bruins to benefit others – that’s a great time to snap a picture of it and post it on social media with #BruinsTogether. How can we balance school, social, personal matters?

A good first start is to take some time and reflect on what values are really important to you. There are lots of “values assessments” or value clarification exercises that you can use to figure out what your important values are. Once you’ve done that, you know where your “north stars” are, and you can use those values to guide how you’ll devote and spend your time, and to figure out whether how you’re spending that time fits with what is important to you. There will be times that you may have to spend more time on school-related activities at the expense of other matters, or personal matters at the expense of school or social activities, etc. Knowing that you’re living in accordance with your values is one way you can take it easy on yourself when you’re not balanced. How do we introduce what social well-being is to others? How can we promote this as a campus community?

One straightforward way to think about social well-being is to consider whether your social needs are being met by your social network. You could be surrounded by friends and family, but they may not be needing your needs for companionship or emotional support. You could also have relatively few people in your social network, but be perfectly content with your social needs being met by that small number. In considering whether your needs are being met, if you feel happy or simply content, your social well-being is probably in good shape. If you feel like something is missing, or if people are with you but not “with you,” then you’ll want to figure out ways to increase your social well-being. The best way campus can promote social well-being is by encouraging connection and collaboration, whether through how we design our physical spaces or how we approach pedagogy (collaborative projects, even collaborating on exams.) In “real world” spaces outside the university classroom, collaboration is essential for success and growth. Academics has tended to encourage individualism, both explicitly and implicitly, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

Check out Ted’s episodes on our LiveWell podcast to learn more about how you can improve your social well-being!

 

Q&A with Nami Murata, EngageWell Pod Undergraduate Pod Assistant

How do you reintroduce yourself in social situations?

It’s easy to want to “stick to what you know” and keep from branching out. When my friends finally started going out again, I often felt that I would rather stay in my sweatpants and binge-watch my show on Netflix. I had to remind myself to take every opportunity to surround myself with the people that I love because, as we’ve learned from the last year, that privilege can easily be taken away from us at once.

Some weeks may be busier than others, but I try to make plans with friends at least once a week, whether it’s to grab coffee in between Zoom meetings or a day trip to the beach. With that being said, I know when I need a day to relax and stay in the comfort of my own room.

 

What did you do to make friends when you came to UCLA?

As a freshman and sophomore at UCLA, I made most of my friends through my sorority, in my dorm building, and in my classes. I felt more intimidated in bigger lecture halls, so I found it easier to talk to people in discussion sections. Although most of my conversation starters had to do with classwork, it became natural to find common interests and have a study buddy.

I was also very close with the people I met during my orientation session. I kept in touch with them throughout the year and would often run into them in between classes. Having these normal encounters throughout the day makes the large campus feel much smaller and comforting.

 

What do you do when you want to reset or recharge after interacting with others?

Sometimes, I can get overwhelmed after seeing a large group of people at once – whether it’s in the workplace, with my family at home, or at a busy restaurant with my friends.

When I know that I need to take a step back to reset myself, I like to go outside for a run or do a Peloton workout. Being active and sweating helps me release some of those tense and anxious feelings almost instantly. During my run or workout, I try to maximize my efforts (running the extra mile, doing an extra rep, pedaling on the bike with higher intensity, etc.) and bring my attention to the task at hand if I feel myself mentally drifting away. When my brain is told to focus on one exercise at a time, I am able to escape from the millions of other stresses of life.

 

Court of Sciences Student Center – from UCLA Newsroom

Social Support: A Connection with Others

Navigating the world around us is hard, especially since we’ve lived through a global pandemic for over a year. While we can get busy with school, work, among other commitments as college students, it is extremely important to take care of ourselves. One form of self-care comes in the form of social support received from your support network.

Scarderra’s JAMA Network Open article, “Association of social support during adolescence with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation in young adults,” emphasizes that social support is a strong foundation that helps address mental health problems. The article posits that young adults above the age of nineteen who had a history of mental illness and who received social support had the following positive benefits:

  • Lower rates of depression
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Decreased suicidal ideation

Scarderra and colleagues analyzed data from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development, a population-based study of participants born between 1997 and 1998 from the age of five months to twenty years. At ages 19 and 20, 121 out of the 1174 individuals had experienced suicidal thoughts. Perceived support was significantly lower among men compared to women. Lower perceived social support was related to more symptoms of depression and anxiety, and that lower perceived social support was related to higher suicidal ideation. In regression models, individuals who reported a higher level of social support at age nineteen years had fewer mental health problems and reported less suicidal ideation.

In sum, social support is an important component of our lives, especially during young adulthood where there are multiple transition phases happening.

Big Takeaway

Social support keeps you connected to others. There are various examples of support that can keep you and many others uplifted during these chaotic times. If you are struggling to keep yourself connected, feel free to check out the resources listed — we are here for you, Bruins!  #BruinsTogether

For additional resources on the topic of relationships, here are a few:

EngageWell Blog Post, February 2021 – Jessica Nunez

Healthy Engagements: Giving during the Pandemic

As we start a new year, we continue living in a pandemic; one that has left many of us working from home, losing a job, or unfortunately lamenting a loved one’s loss. While staying at home is important, maintaining social relationships helps nurture our emotional health and social well-being.

One way we can nurture our health and well-being during these prolonged times of quarantine can be described in one word: giving. 

In Ludmila Nunes’s cover story “Making Nice,” she highlights research on how giving and serving other individuals, can improve the giver’s own well-being. [1] Tristen Inagaki, an Assistant Professor at San Diego State University and UCLA alumnus (B.A., 2005; Ph.D., 2014) highlighted that in “giving to others, you might help them, but you might also help yourself.” Inagaki’s research suggests that prosocial behaviors  — which include taking care of others — can boost our health and well-being. In fact, the neurochemical mechanisms associated with giving to others increase our well-being and trigger feelings of satisfaction and warmth.

Even small acts of kindness can make a difference in peoples’ lives including actions on behalf of larger social causes, like donating to efforts to fight homelessness, hunger, and poverty. Additionally, another small act of kindness is giving advice. Research profiled in Nunes’s story found that students who gave advice to other students were more motivated to achieve their goals than those who only received advice. However, listening is also known to be an important form of giving and advice may be resented so doing this skillfully is critical.

In what ways can we give?

We may be thinking research proves that giving is fulfilling for both the giver and the receiver, but what ways can you give during this pandemic? Here are a few possibilities to consider:

  • Listen to others and find out how they are doing, give suggestions sparingly and advice only when someone asks for it.
  • Thank medical professionals, sanitation workers, teachers, grocery workers, among other essential workers when you interact with them or by donating for them to get meals.
  • Donate food or money to local organizations with pressing needs.
  • Learn about local food banks, homelessness initiatives and other causes until you can be more active again but make yourself a promise (or even a plan) that you will when it is safe.

One final important tip: For individuals who feel isolated during these times, showing gratitude to others for their efforts to keep the world moving right now goes a long way.  Not only does giving encourage us to focus less on ourselves and problems, but it also keeps us socially connected and is good for our health.

 #BruinsTogether

 

References: 

  1. Nunes, Ludmilla. “Making Nice: How Giving and Gratitude Can Rebuild Connections and Break Down Barriers.” Association for Psychological Science. (2020). https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/making-nice

 

EngageWell logo

Engaging with the Pod

Michelle Craske

Social Engagement with the Depression Grand Challenge

Due to the varied consequences of this pandemic, social engagement has transformed into a virtual setting. Fortunately, the Depression Grand Challenge has taken steps to unite the community together. In partnership with BeyGOOD, this UCLA organization has created the COVID-19 Care Package that includes resources as well as tools designed to lift moods and ease the anxiety that comes with the ongoing crisis.

Michelle Craske

Based on studies led by world-known psychologist Michelle Craske, individuals can use the following five tools to help relieve stress:

Strategy 1: Connected (stay connected)

While there are restrictions to social isolation, staying connected with family and friends is an easy way to cope with the stress as well as anxiety that comes with this quarantine. In addition, people living with multiple family members, friends, and roommates are spending a longer period of time with them – all of which can add many distractions and a lack of structure into your life. Some tips to ensure there is a sense of peace in your life is creating a schedule that incorporates fun activities. This is important to make sure you are dedicating time for yourself.

Strategy 2: Control (focus on what you can control)

In the midst of the quarantine chaos, it is easy to become overwhelmed with all that is happening around you. However, an important idea to emphasize is to focus on what you can control because it helps minimize the attention away from the uncertainty. Focus on what you can control, which may include the following:

  • Prioritize your health. It is important to feel good during this quarantine by ensuring that you get regular sleep and taking time to rest if your body is asking for it.
  • Create a schedule. Designating certain hours for particular tasks in your schedule is essential – this will help you space out time for eating, sleeping, exercising, working, and socializing. Additionally, it will help prevent you from overscheduling your day.
  • Get your exercise in. Take a walk in your neighborhood, enroll in an online workout class with your friend, or schedule your own workouts.
  • Do something fun. Read a book, try a new recipe, learn a TikTok dance, or pick up a new hobby!

Strategy 3: Calm (engage in activities that make you feel calm)

Anxiety and stress may place you in an unstable state; for this reason, you must calm your nerves and body. To maintain yourself calm and relaxed, the CARE package recommends exercise, yoga, meditation, and slow breathing. Look out for exercise and yoga studio classes online — these classes guide you through deep breathing and meditation. If you want less intense workouts, you may consider a jigsaw puzzle, drawing, or even doing DIY activities.

Strategy 4: Cut down on the news

A large part of your concerns may rise from reading COVID-19 news. It is essential to keep yourself informed about the latest guidelines; however, this can ultimately heighten your worries and increase anxiety.

Strategy 5: Caring (give and receive kindness)

Be kind to yourself and others. While this statement is always mentioned, the smallest gesture can make a difference. Reach out to a friend, coworker, or neighbor who might be feeling lonely during this quarantine. Showing acts of kindness can help you feel better about yourself and minimize the sadness you are experiencing as well. Everyone can benefit from helping each other, we’re all in this together. There is hope.

 

Jessica Nunez is a third-year undergraduate student studying Cognitive Science and Spanish, Community and Culture. In addition to blogging for the EngageWell Pod, she interns for the Transplant Research and Education Center (TREC) where she communicates with Spanish-speaking kidney patients about their various treatment options. She is strongly passionate about working towards healthcare equity and fostering social change.

Journaling next to a cup of tea

Socially Engaging from Home

As quarantine still unfolds and you continue adjusting to change, your activities may consist of studying for your upcoming finals, wishing to see your friends in person, and playing another round of UNO with your family. In order to maintain positive energy in your household, you can keep yourself energized and productive with a variety of activities that can help you practice social engagement from home:

Exercise in your backyard

While there is no gym open to everyone’s convenience, there are a variety of exercises you can practice at home. In fact, you can make it fun by using the space in your backyard as an area to exercise.

Are you interested in practicing your yoga skills? Core Power Yoga has designed a set of classes to deepen your yoga practice. At Home Inversion Practice offers a diverse outline of exercises in order to maintain your form. They are meant to focus on your upper body, core, and lower body. Check them out!

In addition to these yoga sessions, you can follow exercises posted on Instagram and YouTube in order to get creative with your forms of fitness. They are a good way to keep you accountable in exercising with consistency. These are important to ensure that individuals maintain a form of exercise.

Journal in a notebook

Sometimes you want to express your thoughts on paper, if you are feeling overwhelmed. A personally good way to practice journaling is to dedicate a certain amount of time during your day to write about what you are thinking about. Based on my personal experience, it is a creative outlet to self-reflect and write about what is important to you. This can ultimately serve as a form of expressing gratitude to yourself and having a clear mind of what your plans are.

Journaling next to a cup of tea

Customize your personal space

Are you feeling low in energy and unproductive during this quarantine? It is important to design your workspace into a relaxing place to help maximize your productivity and efficiency. Ways in which you can personalize your space is by adding pictures that remind you of your college experiences and by organizing supplies to add a scholarly vibe to your space. These are important to ensure that individuals maintain a sense of creativity and order in the midst of the chaos of the quarantine.

What’s next?

While quarantine is still happening, there are important ways to stay active at home. Take the time to rejuvenate yourself and finish spring quarter strong. You got this, Bruins!

 

Jessica Nunez is a third-year undergraduate student studying Cognitive Science and Spanish, Community and Culture. In addition to blogging for the EngageWell Pod, she interns for the Transplant Research and Education Center (TREC) where she communicates with Spanish-speaking kidney patients about their various treatment options. She is strongly passionate about working towards healthcare equity and fostering social change.

6fpt

Social Distancing: A Talk with the EngageWell Pod

With this novel idea of “Safer at Home,” have you struggled with social detachment and distress? While physical distance may imply social distancing, it does not mean effacing the connections you have with others.

Conversation among experts in the EngageWell Pod shine a light on maintaining social engagement during this time of physical distancing. EngageWell Pod Co-leader Ted Robles begins a conversation with Associate Vice Provost Dr. Wendy Slusser about maintaining social engagement and support with a podcast in this special Semel HCI series, “6 feet apart.”

Dr. Robles explains that social well-being primarily focuses on having good quality connections with friends, coworkers, and even dogs — regardless of the number you have — and fostering trust in them. Cancelling graduation, struggling with depression, and ending the school year early are factors affecting the student community. However, these variations from normal life are all the more reason to keep strong personal connections with the people you care about.

Dr. Robles provides the following three tips for maintaining a strong social well-being:

  1. Taking care of yourself and loved ones

  2. Listening to frontline workers’ stories

  3. Giving back to others

Ultimately, although we are experiencing physical distance, it remains necessary to prioritize social well-being to maintain holistic health in the time of COVID-19.

Semel HCI Staff holding a virtual meeting

 

Jessica Nunez is a third-year undergraduate student studying Cognitive Science and Spanish, Community and Culture. In addition to blogging for the EngageWell Pod, she interns for the Transplant Research and Education Center (TREC) where she communicates with Spanish-speaking kidney patients about their various treatment options. She is strongly passionate about working towards healthcare equity and fostering social change.

Piano

The UCLA Piano Project

Have you ever felt overwhelmed as you are walking to your third class, or even a three-hour long lab, during the day? As a 2019 mark on campus, the UCLA Piano Project was launched as an effort to foster a sense of relaxation and tranquility. In the midst of midterm season, playing the pianos located around campus pauses the chaos of running to class and cements a sense of peace with the beat of music.

The project was founded by UCLA alumnus Jeremy Barrett in January 2019 as an effort to bridge a connection between the student community and music. The project began with three pianos in the fall, and was made possible through funding from the Semel Healthy Campus Initiative Center and the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music as well as support from Chancellor Gene Block.

The pianos are located in four places around campus: Bruin Plate, Covel Commons, the Luskin Conference Hall, and Bruin Walk — all scattered in locations convenient for students’ pleasure. The music played on the piano is meant to transform a stress reliever into a harmonious sound for all.

Description of pianos across campus

According to a recent interview with Jeremy Barrett, the UCLA Piano Project was just an idea a few months back — an idea driven by the fact that most students are passionate about music and need a form of musical expression. His collaboration with staff and faculty helped solidify the plan and install accessible pianos around campus to unify the student community. Barrett explains that the Schoenberg Music Building donated four pianos after he was able to find a location for the pianos.

In fact, Barrett explains that Peter Angelis of UCLA Housing & Hospitality Services said, “Since they’ve been installed, impromptu performances have been non-stop and watching the social interactions of passersby with the pianists has been heartwarming. The pianos have brought a higher level of community and wellness to the Hill, and one that makes me wonder how we could have gone so long without the beautiful instruments.”

The student feedback on the piano project has been positive, as individuals believe the piano is a spontaneous outlet to channel their creativity on campus. There are opportunities in which individuals can play the piano in order to create a form of expression. UCLA students Jamie Adachi and Reshmi Vadapalli suggest that the pianos around campus create a nice distraction for them. Their evening walks on campus are enlightened by the fact that they can hear the piano play — a tranquil sound as they walk around campus and add peace to their walk.

“When we take an evening class on campus, we hear people play the piano on Bruinwalk and it is very calming,” Jamie Adachi mentions, “I appreciate hearing people play when I am walking to class.”

Jeremy Barrett emphasizes that the UCLA Piano Project was also constructed as an instrument of peace — one that could be heard in Los Angeles, California, America, and worldwide. The music could be heard in the steps of Bruin Plate, Sunset Village, and Luskin Conference Center. This served as a primary motivation for him to create the project.

In extension to this student experience, students living in the dorms mentioned that you can play the piano located in Covel Commons. Students who walk by the sound of the piano comment on the fact that it is a passive form of stress relief. These small acts of stress relief emphasize that students appreciate the university’s efforts to create a safe space among all. Their #homeawayfromhome, if you will.

The future plans of the Piano Project include incorporating different art forms and incorporating the concept of “Building Community Through Art” and organizing a “Paint the Piano” contest.

Ultimately, the UCLA Piano Project has sparked a conversation of stress relief and positivity among the student community. Jeremy Barrett’s work has changed the student community into a more musically-aware campus. The UCLA Piano Project has united students and the passion for music in a livid way — check it out!

 

Jessica Nunez is a third-year undergraduate student studying Cognitive Science and Spanish, Community and Culture. In addition to blogging for the EngageWell Pod, she interns for the Transplant Research and Education Center (TREC) where she communicates with Spanish-speaking kidney patients about their various treatment options. She is strongly passionate about working towards healthcare equity and fostering social change.

Accessibility 2

Making UCLA Accessibility Conscious

Every time I go on my Facebook, I see new events being held for movie screenings, networking events, and panels, all of which I am eager to participate in and learn more about. At these events, I  interact and meet others with similar interests, providing the basis of many friendships and connections. I see them as opportunities to enhance my social well-being.  

Unfortunately, for many students with disabilities, these events and activities are difficult to participate in: the tables at an event may be too high for a student in a wheelchair to reach, an interpreter may not be present so that hard of hearing and Deaf students with listening impairments are unable to understand what is going on, or pathways obstructions may impede a person who is blind’s ability to travel. Since students with disabilities compile only a small percentage of the UCLA body, planners often forget or simply don’t know how to incorporate disability-friendly measures into their events.

Carolanne “Goob” Link, a former undergraduate student at UCLA who was born with cerebral palsy, navigated campus as a student with mobile disabilities. The  extra hurdles she experienced in order to attend events and activities at UCLA inspired the creation of the Campus Accessibility Toolkit.  

Accessibility1

The Campus Accessibility Toolkit arms and educates event planners with the vital information, through research and anecdotal evidence to create resource guides and lists,  to make their events accessible to students with physical disabilities.

The Drive for the Creation of the Accessibility Toolkit 

Goob’s two distinct experiences, as an ambulatory mobility impaired studentand as a student in a wheelchair, sparked Goob’s interest  in disability culture. Although she recognized an abundance of resources on campus, like the Center for Accessible Education (CAE), the ADA/504 Compliance Office, and the Disabilities and Computing program to help disabled students succeed academically, Goob explained that the services those resources provide “doesn’t necessarily mean you feel comfortable with experiences outside of the classroom. UCLA could be doing more to help include disabled person in extracurricular activities.” 

If social events do not take in account accessibility concerns, discomfort ensues, burdening both the student with disabilities and the event planners. Whenever she attended an event, her first thought was always “Is there going to be a problem?,” often correctly anticipating that appropriate accessibility concerns had not be made. While she felt ostracized for not being able to experience the event the way it was supposed to be experienced, she also acknowledged the guilt and regret event planners felt when they realized that their events were not universally attendable. Goob hopes that the contents of the Campus Accessibility Toolkit will “help students with disabilities feel more included and not have a fear of going to an extracurricular activity and for planners to not feel anxiety about planning for someone with a different set of needs.” 

A big obstacle in making social events accessible stems from a lack of communication between event planners and students with disabilities. When Goob attended a panel for disability studies, questions like “How do you ask about the disability?” and “How do you offer help without being pushy?” astonished her.   People could not plan to make their events and spaces more accessible because they did not want to risk the possibility of offending the disabled community. They gravitated to the panel because they believed it to be the only space where their questions would be welcomed and answered. Goob hopes that the Campus Accessibility Toolkit will “bridge this gap by putting knowledge out there without any awkwardness, without any confrontation or possibility of offense.”  

The Future Evolution of the Toolkit

Goob has been working on the Campus Accessibility Toolkit for six months, but she has been actively involved in improving accessibility for well over a couple of years. She communicated with a diverse group of sources: students, faculty members, and organizations in order to write the toolkit. Although the Campus Accessibility Toolkit is is currently in beta mode and being edited and modified, a number of offices at UCLA, like the CAE, the EDI, and the ADA504 agreed to feature the toolkit as a resource once it comes out. 

Goob has ambitious goals for the Campus Accessibility Toolkit. She is currently in the process of designing an Accessibility Conscious Seal, an emblem event planners can use in their publicity documents to inform the public they have taken measures to make their events as accessible to everyone as possible.  The Seal will allow students with disabilities to “know that the planners have already thought about the bigger picture of inclusion.” 

Although Goob authored most of the documents available in the Campus Accessibility Toolkit, she emphasized that it is a “living project” and that “my voice is that of a specific person and is the glorified compiler of her and other disabled students’ experiences. This is not some end-all, be-all. I hope that the future generation will become contributors and are always updating the toolkit as the technology changes.” As such, she encourages people to read and continuously add information to the toolkit, envisioning the development of a hub of information, connecting past difficulties to future solutions. People like event planners, architects and policy makers will be able to read about how to make specific venues on campus accessibility friendly.

After reading the Campus Accessibility Toolkit, I realized just how little I knew about a certain subset of people of UCLA. It never occured to me how unfair it was that the events that I attend on a weekly basis could not be enjoyed by everyone. 

Be sure to check it out below:

 

Jessica Yang is a second year student majoring in Environmental Science with a concentration in Environmental Health. On top of blogging for Semel HCI, she is part of club swimming and hopes to pursue a career in healthcare in the future. 

 

Cources

Resilient and Empathetic Leaders at UCLA

Resilient and Empathetic Leaders at UCLA

UCLA is home to an enormous number of students, staff, and faculty. Passionate, accomplished, and revered individuals can be found in every corner of campus, from those that are developing drugs to cure forms of cancer to others who are collegiate-level athletes and winning NCAA championship titles. In this fast-paced environment, it is easy to get caught up in what everybody else is doing and feel as though you cannot compare. While some people may appear to be superhuman in their positions of power, with long lists of accolades, countless friends, and the ability to take on whatever is thrown at them without much hesitation, that is simply not the truth. Everybody has experienced adversity in some way. It is how we overcome that adversity that defines our path in the future. It is important to see these leaders as approachable, empathetic, and relatable figures.

I decided to talk to these accomplished leaders to understand how they came to be who they are today. Learning about the bumps they encountered on their paths and how they overcame them has shown me that resilience may be the ultimate “superhuman” ability, and the empathy they can show for those who look up to them.

 

A Spotlight on Wendy Slusser: Taking Action to Overcome Social Isolation

Dr. Wendy Slusser is a pediatrician, nutritionist, and the Associate Vice Provost of the Semel Healthy Campus Initiative Center. She is a key leader in creating a culture of health and well-being on campus, using strategies such as making “the healthy choice the easiest choice” and “infusing health into the everyday operations at UCLA.”. Through her leadership of Semel HCI, Dr. Slusser has helped change the health landscape at UCLA by backing the creation of B-plate, helping to incorporate healthy options into vending machines, driving the formation of the Food Studies Minor and Graduate Certificate, and supporting efforts to create UCLA’s Bike Share program. Dr. Slusser is also a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics in the Schools of Medicine and Public Health at UCLA, and Co-Founder and Medical Director of the UCLA Fit for Healthy Weight program. I sat down with Dr. Slusser and asked her about her struggles with social isolation and how she infuses social well-being into her day-by-day life.

 

Q: When was your greatest moment of social isolation and how did you overcome it?

A: I grew up in a family of five children so I never was alone for a long time. Up until I was 14, I shared a bedroom with my three sisters, so even when I was asleep, I was never alone. It was when I first went to college that I first felt the sense of being alone because I was away from the nuclear family that always gave me a home.

The time I felt the loneliest was when I had a two-year-old. I was living in San Diego, working at a great job, and living two houses in from this beautiful beach. I remember standing on the beach. looking out at the ocean, telling myself, “This is so beautiful and I’m so grateful and I have a child and a wonderful husband, but I’d rather live in the slums of New York and be near my family and friends then be here.” It struck me that when you have a young child, are working full-time, have a husband who is not working at home, and no family nearby, you feel very alone.

That moment I realized I needed to change the location of where I worked. I resigned from a job I really liked and moved up to LA with no job just so I could be closer to my husband, who was spending more time working there, and my friends who lived there. It transformed my life.

 

Q: What would you recommend to students who currently feel socially isolated?

A: Joining a club or having a common interest with people is definitely a way to link and create a foundation for friendship because you can then share that with them. It’s more than just a socializing event; it’s sharing something that you enjoy together.

I have regular hiking partners and that’s how I see my friends and have conversations with them. We have bonded over the common interest of hiking. Hikes can be three or four hours up in the Santa Monica Mountains. They have been nourishing.

 

Q: What is something you do to enhance your social well-being?

A: The act of giving enhances my social well-being. The times I have felt particularly lonely or sad, I always felt better if I reached out to people for help. Working in patient care, there is a huge component of that, of helping and being useful and making a difference. Those are things that are important to me.

 

Q: How has interacting with others enhanced your social well-being?

A: I was alone a lot with my young kids and my partner was gone a lot. Not having much family around here, I had old friends that would reach out to me, and say “You are going to take a personal day Wendy. You are going to bike on the beach with me.” They made an effort to make sure that I was okay, and that’s what friends are for. Just even that one moment in a six-week period, going out with a friend was powerful. Friends who give you quality time can get you through those lonely moments.

 

Q: How do you think social well-being has changed from your time in college to nowadays?

In my time, a lot of friends and my friends at colleges and I wrote letters to each other in order to catch up. Nowadays, there’s such instant communication between your friends and spaces that you can often just not engage with friends on your own campus because you are in constant communication with friends from other places. It’s important to have people physically there with you.

 

Q: What does social well-being mean to you?

A: Close meaningful relationships and love in your life. Love in your life could be through your dog or your sister. It doesn’t have to be through a partner. Being loved and loving enhances your social well-being.

If you want to gain more insight into Dr. Slusser’s mentality about living a healthy life, I encourage you to check out the TEDxUCLA talk that she gave in 2017 called “The Unapologetic Beauty of Focusing on your Strengths.”

The Unapologetic Beauty of Focusing on Your Strengths

 


 

Dr. Slusser’s story about social isolation is a reminder of how important it is to value our social well-being and practice self-care.

The transition to college, graduate school, or any new environment, can often be challenging. It can be scary to take the first step to reach out to others. If you feel isolated right now, I encourage you to look into student groups on campus that you share common interests with and attend a meeting or broaden your horizons and look into a new hobby or event. If you happen to know friends and family members who are struggling with social isolation, give them a call, set up a dinner and encourage them to take a “personal day.” There exists a lot of power in dedicating quality time to hanging out with the people we love and reminding them that they are not alone.

As Dr. Slusser so poignantly said, “Being loved and loving enhances your social well-being.”