The Daily Telegraph

LIFESTYLE TWEAKS

- confidence will grow, and your social connection­s will deepen. Routine helps keep social connection­s in place, so schedule something in each week. Lastly, be mindful of your

Jo

Our social connection­s, in other words, our relationsh­ips with the people around us including our neighbours, friends, loved ones and colleagues, don’t just feel comforting, they also play an important role in protecting our health.

Research has previously linked social isolation to a higher risk of heart disease, a weakened immune system, depression and cognitive decline. Loneliness has even been found to be on par with obesity and smoking when it comes to health risk.

Yet during lockdown, many of us found our social connection­s dwindling. We have clients who were suddenly isolating at home, often living alone, and unable to meet up with friends and family.

As lockdown eases, it’s important to re-establish those connection­s, but many people may be feeling anxious about getting back out there. Confidence is like a muscle, and needs to be worked on gently and gradually built back up. Don’t feel rushed back into your normal routine but rather do it step by step at a pace you feel comfortabl­e with.

However, if you find yourself retreating from others, it can quickly become a downward spiral.

If you’re reluctant to go out, your confidence and fitness will decline and you’re more likely to feel anxious, which can lead to stress eating, where you overindulg­e in the wrong types of food. If you begin to gain weight, you’ll tire more easily and will be even less likely to want to go out and see loved ones.

Exercise is a great place to start. It’s a fantastic way to build confidence by boosting your feel-good endorphins, which will increase feelings of happiness, and if you do it with a friend, it will help strengthen your social connection­s, too.

Arrange a weekly walk with a friend, or a weekly coffee, even if it’s in each other’s gardens or at your local park.

As well as real-life meetings, stay in touch with friends and family who may be further away via Zoom, text, or better still, regular phone calls. Make time to phone a friend at least once a week. The more often you do these things, the more your

TV habits. While we all love to watch our favourite programmes, studies show that in lockdown we’ve been binge-watching more TV than ever before. Viewing back-to-back episodes with your favourite characters on TV is no substitute for meeting up with a friend in real life, or hearing their voice on the end of the phone.

 ??  ?? Binge-watching: viewing habits may have changed for the worse
Binge-watching: viewing habits may have changed for the worse
 ??  ?? Reconnect: meeting up with a friend is a step towards returning to normality
Reconnect: meeting up with a friend is a step towards returning to normality

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