How to Overcome Isolation and Create Deep Connections

June 17, 2020 by University District

Traditional and Impactful Ways to Bond with Loved Ones and Community Members


When we are kept apart — because of miles, health challenges or simply busy lives — it’s important to put a little extra effort and imagination into reconnecting, staying connected and enriching connections.


The difference between feeling lonely and being alone is significant and can impact a person’s quality of life whether it be a neighbour, family member, friend, or perhaps your own. It’s important to take a pause and consider whether you and those you encounter can benefit from quiet time alone. Or, could the challenges of loneliness be a cause for concern?



Tip: University of Calgary Department of Psychology Professor Dr. Keith Dobson talks about ways to tell if something isn’t right, and strategies for support if people aren’t doing well. Give this podcast a listen.


Though technology is integrated into day-to-day life, with Facetime and Zoom, Google Hangouts and Emoji-filled texts, nothing tops traditional acts of kindness, care, and affection. At U/D. we have a few ideas up our sleeves to warm hearts and minds — yours and those who matter to you, or even strangers.



We can feel a little lonely from time to time, especially during the unprecedented times of COVID. Becoming technology weary is likely, so it’s a great time to reconnect the old-fashioned way – where acts of love and kindness, even at a distance, can go a long way. There are different ways, whether a small or big gesture, to show that appreciation for others.


But first, let’s talk about the quality and value of relationships — family, friends, neighbours — to achieving positive emotional health.


Last month we interviewed Dr. Aaliya Sabir, paediatrician at neighbouring Alberta Children’s Hospital, and she discussed the importance of mental health checks and selfcare. Take a look at her profile for more insight from a frontline worker’s perspective. 


Did you know?


  • Studies have concluded that chronic loneliness increases our risk of an early death by 14%.
  • Around the world, loneliness is emerging as a public-health problem, contributing to depression and anxiety and to coronary heart disease and stroke.
  • Quality relationships — where we share our feelings, thoughts, and experiences with another — reduce stress, boost immunity, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, lower long-term health and longevity risks.



Loneliness knows no difference between ages or lifestyles, and can affect people who live alone or with others. Senior citizens, parents, teens, empty nesters, new Calgarians – no one is immune. At U/D, we encourage community members and Calgarians to break down barriers, help others, and rediscover how to connect on a personal level.


Here are some less-common ideas for bridging loneliness and to form deeper bonds in fun, simple ways.


If you need someone to talk to, visit Alberta Health Services website for suggestions of facilities and services. Or connect with the team at Kids Help Phone Canada, or the Distress Centre Calgary for 24-hour support. 





Don’t be shy. Put down your phone, put on a smile and strike up a conversation with someone new to you. Whether at the dog park, the grocery aisle, your building elevator or a local cafe, shedding fear of rejection could be your ticket to better connections. Here are some easy, tiny steps to start conversations:


  • Get outside at least once a day if you are able to
  • Make eye contact and share a smile with everyone you encounter
  • Be the first to say hello
  • If you meet someone walking a pup, ask about the breed, name or age as a way to break the ice.
  • Invite someone to tell you something that they want to share with a simple “Tell me about you!” or “What’s been the highlight of your day today?” or “Having fun?”
  • Share a window wave! If you have a pet, hold them up to the window and wave a paw to passers-by. Or hold up a happy message on a sign to surprise a neighbour and spark a laugh. These little moments go a long way to brighten a day.
  • Compliment a neighbour’s outfit, garden pot or their smile as you pass by to boost their spirits and pride.
  • Do one thing a day that will make someone smile. Small initiatives to show you care can create bonds with new friends and stronger neighbourly ties!





Take time to connect with the people who share your four walls and roof. Have that deep, meaningful conversation that hasn’t happened in a while! Go beyond the news of the day and the weather forecast, what’s happening with the family or day-to-day activities.


Tip: Here’s a list of three ways sure to spark deeper dialogue around the dinner table.


  • Play two truths and a false where each person shares three things from their day and the others have to guess which is false!
  • Ask silly-to-soulful questions like: “If you came with a guarantee–like so many products do–what would you guarantee about yourself?” Or, pick up a Chat Pack: New Questions to Spark Fun Conversations Cards.
  • Lay the table with special items that reflect memorable events or have sentimental value: a wedding present, a vintage plate, a special occasion vase filled with cheery flowers. Each object evokes a special memory or emotion so use these as a backdrop to spark discussion, reminisce, and share how they’ve brought happiness or have impacted your life.




The art of the letter should never be a lost art. A quick note or letter to a loved one is often so special it becomes a “keeper.”


Take a trip to Market Mall and scan the aisles of local, independent gift and novelty shop Paper Root Studios that has been in business since 1992! They have fun cards and boxed stationery, pens and notecards to help you deliver a message the good old-fashioned way! Choose stationery that reflects your tastes, and share your thoughts and news with a loved one by post.





Whether during a pandemic or just the reality of modern life, Calgary seniors are vulnerable when it comes to social isolation. Taking its lead from Alberta Health Services, Calgary Seniors offers fast, effective service by volunteers who can help ensure the safety and health of seniors. If you want to refer someone, get help for yourself or volunteer, take a look here or call 403.266.6200.





Be silly, serious or spontaneous! Dot special messages and little treats in your loved ones’ car, closet, medicine cabinet, lunch box…even on their pillowcase as a surprise, conversation starter, or way of showing you care.


Ordering a pillowcase with a positive message of love is a fun surprise for kids or grandpas — for a turndown delight!


We love the selections at Market Mall’s QE HOMES. Like this one!




Give at-home spa treatments from foot baths and pedicures to family members and them to you as part of a Home Spa Brightness Challenge.  From head to toe, we can care for one another in fun and uplifting ways that are as easy as a walk down the drugstore aisle. Or how about a visit to Valley Boutique and Home in Bowness — a delightful local resource.



Create a cheery at-home salon with a menu of treatments to order from: deep hair conditioning and scalp massage, an Epsom salt foot bath, pumice scrub and toenail polish treatment, a Turkish-style hammam scrub down, an essential oil back massage before bedtime or indulge in an at-home slumber party with facial masks for the ultimate me-time — together!




Step one on the path to deeper relationships and bonds starts with you.  There’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. Sometimes a little solitary time can be good, like meditation or yoga, or at times you may feel alone when surrounded by people. It’s helpful to be brave, open up and take some risks sometimes because trying something new may help with that feeling of loneliness.


Connect with new friends, old friends, colleagues, a neighbour or family, or volunteer … because you’re never truly alone and remember that we can’t help others if we neglect ourselves.



Let’s use this time to reconnect, grow, and get back to basics using tech-free ways to remove isolation for stronger personal and community bonds. All in the name of being better together!


Exercise is an important part of health, and it’s a great way to connect with others. Whether it’s bringing the family out for a bike ride to explore the great NW, or meeting fellow bikers in your community, get on the pathways and trails like a pro! Have a read through our bike ride guide for some ideas!

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