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Social connections and well-being: Say “Hello” for Health

  • Increasing your social connections can reduce blood pressure, lower level of stress hormones and improve immune response.

What if just saying “hello” could improve your health? It’s not quite that simple, but there is good evidence that increasing social connections positively affects our health—reducing blood pressure, lowering levels of stress hormones and improving immune responses. On the flip side, social isolation has been associated with poor mental health across all life stages.

Hello4Health, a new initiative from Allina Health, helps people connect with one another to develop more and stronger social connections, improving both mental and physical health.

A great place to start? Right next door.

With so much uncertainty in the world right now related to COVID-19, we need social connection more than ever. Your neighbors are a great place to start. They are close by, and you’ve probably at least said “Hi” to them in the past while you parked the car or shoveled snow. In some instances, you may already know your neighbors well. But in others, you’re not as connected as you could be.

Find opportunities to connect

Many communities host “National Night Out” or “Night to Unite” events, to bring neighbors together in a fun and celebratory way. With COVID-19, many of these events were cancelled or postponed. If your neighborhood event is coming up, take advantage of the opportunity and seek out people you don’t already know.

If a neighborhood event isn’t an option, go on a walk around your neighborhood and introduce yourself to others. Or start a conversation the next time you see your neighbor walking their dog.

Reaching out this way may seem scary or overwhelming to some of us. Fortunately, Hello4Health has created some tools to help you connect with confidence. Use these tools in person—with appropriate distancing and safety, please!—or on a video chat. 

Conversation starters: Asking the right questions

Asking questions is an age-old way to begin a dialog with someone. But if you want to move beyond, “So, what do you do for a living?” and get to know someone on a slightly deeper level, there are many more questions to try:

  • What is one thing you’re grateful for today?
  • What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
  • What do you like to do if you have a free weekend?
  • If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Each of these questions can open a conversation and make a new connection. And there are plenty more where these came from. Download and print our Hello4Health Conversation Starter cards, so you’ll always have a bunch of questions at the ready.

Make a neighbor map

Once you’ve chatted up a neighbor and gotten the conversation rolling, use our Neighbor Map to keep notes of key insights to remember. It’s a quick visual guide to help you keep track of who’s who. Plus, these notes will encourage deeper conversations with your neighbors the next time you connect.

By connecting more with neighbors, you not only improve your social connections and theirs, but the overall health of the community as well.

 

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