Saturday, 5 January 2013

Are you connecting?

Immediately before I give blood, a nurse drips a single drop of my red stuff into a small test tube filled with clear blue liquid, and in so doing is able to tell - among other things - whether I'm anaemic or not.

If I'm not, fine, I can go ahead and donate. Should I be anaemic, though, I think she'd send me off to see my doctor who'd probably prescribe an iron supplement and advise me to eat iron-rich foods such as dark-green leafy vegetables, wholegrains, beans and nuts.

It's a simple enough model, isn't it? A quick test reveals a deficiency in something, which you fix by consuming more of whatever it is you're missing.

It makes me wonder if a similar 'take two of these and call me in the morning' approach might work for us when we're in need of an emotional boost. I'm not thinking medication, more simple actions we can take.

Let's see how this might pan out, for instance, with human connection. When your mood is low, it's pretty common to keep oneself to oneself. In a 'chicken and egg' kind of way, you may feel blue when you have little contact with others, but are also likely to initiate little contact when you feel this way.

Imagine there was a blood test that would tell you whether you'd connected with a healthy number of people the day before, and visualise the nurse or doctor giving you the results: 'Ah, I can see you've been having fewer conversations than you normally might. Here's what I'd like you to do...'

And this would be what, exactly? I'm sure you'll have ideas of your own, but here are a couple of mine.

1. If you really don't feel like talking, email or text a friend you've not contacted for a while. Just a 'Hello' might be enough to elicit a reply.

2. Connections with people you don't know can work too. When you're in the supermarket or library, ask the person who serves you what sort of day they're having. Maybe it'll result in a little exchange.

3. Find an excuse to knock on a neighbour's door, even if it's simply to say you wanted to make sure they were OK. A few minutes on their doorstep could make a valuable contribution to defeating your connection-anaemia.

4. Another tip for feeling connected on days on which you truly, madly, deeply feel unable to engage in conversation? Listen to a talk radio show. Don't just have it on in the background, concentrate and follow along, just as you would if you were chatting with someone.

Just as your blood needs iron, your soul needs connections. So when you're running low, be sure to take a supplement or two.