Micro- vs Macro-Connectivity: The Importance of Small Social Interactions

Psych Congress 2021 Co-Chair, Charles Raison, MD, Mary Sue and Mike Shannon Chair for Healthy Minds, Children, and Families, Madison, Wisconsin, and Psych Congress Steering Committee Member, Saundra Jain, MA, PsyD, LPC, Adjunct Clinical Affiliate, University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing, Austin, Texas, sat down in San Antonio at Psych Congress and discussed the idea of connectivity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Drs Raison and Jain highlight the idea of micro- vs macro-connectivity, and how important even small social interactions are in maintaining overall wellness.

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this video, Drs Raison and Jain discussed social connectivity, as well as how to manage stress, anxiety, loneliness, and other depressive symptoms.

Another piece to it that I love as a psychotherapist. A lot of times, these things, like social connectedness, volunteering, mindfulness, sleeping really well, they're historically have been seen as, "Oh, we'll do that if we have time. We're just talking psychopharm right here, and this is what we need to do." What you said earlier.

The truth of the matter is these are not touchy, feely interventions. We've got some great neurobiological data. The science behind it, it's very strong. We've all at Psych Congress come together as a community to share that message. That this needs to be elevated to the treatment planning table.

We need to be talking about this front and center alongside of the other interventions. Love it.

Charles:  Absolutely. Of course, Saundra, you and Rakesh have been at the forefront of this with this WILD 5, which is this wellness intervention that targets the five things you mentioned. It's interesting.

Maybe if we circle back to social connectivity. Something that struck me about what you did in the WILD 5, in terms of what your recommendations were for people to enhance their social connectivity, was of course, what you experienced at that dinner, where you had a real deeper connection. Nothing beats that.

There's much to be said for even more passing social connections. You talked about this. How you interact with somebody that is checking out your groceries. There's a word for it. What is it? The type of connections that are more casual.

Saundra:  A couple of things. I've read more and more recently on the differences between weak social ties and strong social ties. What you're referencing, we coined the phrase micro and macro socialization. There is something very powerful in the checker talking, engaging, but also just passing someone on the street, even with a mask on.

They feel the smile. They may not see it, but the eyes brighten. There's this connection of human-to-human contact that is incredibly powerful. I've experienced it since I got here Wednesday night. It's amazing.

Charles:  It's interesting. Extroverts, on average, tend to endorse more happiness in their life than introverts. My partner's a great extrovert. I'm more of an introvert. I envied that. I see that it adds up. That if you can have a micro positivity and a micro positivity, it's an important thing. We often don't think about that. It's useful sometimes. If you're struggling with major mental illnesses, sometimes it's hard to get the deeper things.

Drawing some nourishment from connections that are maybe not as personal, not as powerful, but they still signal our brains and our bodies in ways that give us a little boost of feeling better. I've never seen anybody look at that so closely. I bet that there's a treatment strategy there that we're not fully taking advantage of.