Improving the quality of life with educational and recreational opportunities for individuals with spinal cord injuries.

According to Brigham Young University psychology professor and researcher Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, being socially connected is considered a fundamental human need.  Social support has been known to positively influence life satisfaction and health, and even mortality,  among those living with spinal cord injuries (SCI) and disorders.  Our connection to others enables us to better battle diseases and take part in a meaningful, productive life.  And research shows that those that take part in social activities generally live longer, have a sense of purpose in life, and maintain a better mood.

Individuals with SCI have had a long history of social isolation.  The years since 2020 have been no exception.  For the first time, everyone has been struggling to stay connected with friends and loved ones while maintaining social distancing protocols. It’s estimated that 1 in 20 Americans will experience depression in their lifetime, yet for the spinal cord injury population, it’s 1 in 5.  COVID-19 has increased these rates (3 times), which is why staying connected is especially important during this time. Ways to stay connected: 

  1. Join Facebook Groups: There are many groups on Facebook that are specific to SCI/D.  Here you can bounce ideas off of others, get advice about a struggle you are experiencing, or just chat and make new friends.  Some of the groups we recommend are United Spinal Association Northeast Ohio Chapter, Spinal Cord Injury USA Group, Spinal Cord Peer Support USA, The Wheel Woman Hole (for females only), and United Spinal Spinal Cord Injury (SCI/D) Support Group, but this list is not exhaustive.  Find a couple that you connect with and start there!
  2. Invite friends for a one-on-one Facetime/Zoom Meeting.  Even though you wouldn’t be in person, it’s a safe alternative that still provides face time with those you care about.  Other platforms could include Skype, Google Meets, Snapchat video calls, FB Messenger video calls, etc.  
  3. Set up a Happy Hour/Social Hour Chat with a group of friends/family members.  Gone are the days of group outings (for the time being anyway), so why not take those hangouts online?  With some planning, you could create some interesting “themed” discussions.  Have a trivia night, or have everyone in the group buy the same ingredients and cook together, have a paint night together, or anything you can think of.
  4. Stay connected with yourself.  Self-discovery is equally important when trying to connect with others.  With more time by ourselves, it’s important to take the time to care for yourself in order to be the best version for loved ones.  Things to try journaling, meditation practices, exercise, and any other self-care strategy.  
  5. Try out a new recipe/hobby/creative outlet and share it on social media.  Ever wanted to knit a scarf, bake bread, try out that random recipe you saw in that cookbook that one time!? Make the most of these times and try something new.  There are even online groups that you can join to learn new skills or connect with others that have the same interests.
  6. Get outdoors – Ohio weather permitting of course! Every now and then we get a glimpse of that bright yellow thing in the sky! Consider exploring nature at the various Cleveland Metroparks throughout Greater Cleveland, maybe even get to know your own neighborhood a little better.
  7. Call/text/check-in with your friends/family/loved ones. Being on video can be exhausting these days but it still may be comforting to hear from the ones we care about.Get involved in a new club, or create your own – book club, streaming movies online, or online discussions on specific topics. Opportunity to bring together familiar faces and new ones, too. 
  8. Volunteer for a cause you are passionate about – lots of things to do virtually to help out your favorite non-profit.  Research shows that volunteering is the gift that gives back.  Volunteers not only make a difference in the lives they are helping, but also their own life as health benefits include lowered stress, reduced risk of depression, and new relationships. 
  9. Send cards/letters – nothing beats receiving physical mail that is not a bill.  Spread some love by sending a card or letter to someone special in your life.

Bonus tip: Find your favorite local artists, content creators on social media and join their live streams! Comment and reply to other comments during the stream to connect with others watching.  And who knows, maybe your favorite creator will shout out your comment. Social connections are what bind us together.  Prioritizing social interactions and finding meaningful ways to connect during this time will help support each other and our own health and wellbeing.  

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