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8 Recommendations for Mental Health and Social Connection



Welcome back, dear readers. It’s been a minute since my last post. A pandemic minute.

How are you? That question has almost become cliché over the last 3-4 years. It is easy to gloss over with a short answer. “Fine.” “Hanging in there.” “Doing ok.” Protecting ourselves, loved ones and friends from honest answers that are potentially too vulnerable.


In my training as a clinical herbalist, we work through an intake process that includes details of diet, exercise, sleep, stress, family history, and current & past physical symptoms and characteristics. We analyze these details to arrive at a pattern assessment, according to traditional Chinese &/ or Ayurvedic medicine, that integrates physical, emotional and mental health. One of the great advantages of our thorough intake is the opportunity to listen to clients share their stories, and take the time to discuss "how are you". We then determine:


  • Pattern Assessment

  • Treatment Strategy

  • Herbal Protocol

  • Dietary Recommendations

  • Lifestyle Recommendations


When I am teaching case studies with my herbal medicine students, it is common to see lifestyle recommendations from my students that advise a client to “manage &/or reduce stress”. How, I often ask my students, do we actually help our clients to approach this goal? What concrete actions can we recommend, and how are we prepared to help our clients achieve them? What tools are we providing? And, how do we as practitioners walk the talk?


On May 2, 2023, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy released a report titled "Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation”. (NPR 2023) Dr. Murthy has been writing on this topic for several years, including his 2020 book Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, which I highly recommend reading. (NPR 2020) His recent report outlines the significant health impacts of loneliness and social disconnection, on anxiety and depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and dementia. “Social connection”, the report states, “is essential to our health and well-being.” The advisory lists Four Key Takeaways:


  1. Humans are wired for social connection, but we’ve become more isolated over time

  2. Social connection significantly improves the health and well-being of all individuals

  3. Social connection is vital to community health and success

  4. Together, we can advance social connection and improve our nation’s public health


The Surgeon General’s report outlines specific actions to strengthen social connection. These equate to the category of lifestyle recommendations that a clinical herbalist may recommend to a client. They offer specific, measurable actions. His work clearly explains and defines how such lifestyle recommendations can reduce stress, and so much more.

  1. Invest time in nurturing relationships through consistent, frequent, and high-quality engagement with others.

  2. Participate in social and community groups such as fitness, religious, hobby, professional, and community service organizations to foster a sense of belonging, meaning, and purpose.

  3. Seek out opportunities to serve and support others, either by helping your family, coworkers, friends or strangers in your community, or by participating in community service.

  4. Actively engage with people of different backgrounds and experiences to expand your understanding of and relationships with others.

  5. Be responsive, supportive, and practice gratitude as these behaviors can strengthen our social bonds and improve relationship satisfaction.

  6. Reduce practices that lead to feelings of disconnection from others such as the harmful and excessive use of social media and spending time in unhealthy relationships.

  7. Seek help during times of struggle by reaching out to a family member, friend, counselor, health care provider, or the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

  8. Be open with your health care provider about significant social changes in your life. This may help them understand potential health impacts and guide them to provide recommendations to mitigate health risks.


These recommendations may seem overly simplistic. This is not new. Healthy relationships are vital to a healthy society. We have evolved biologically to depend upon each other. And yet, in the year 2023, it can feel as if we have forgotten this foundational knowledge, as socio-economic demands put increasing pressure on our day-to-day lives. Nevertheless, we can take small steps towards a healthier balance.




In 1972, Bill Withers wrote and recorded the hit song “Lean On Me”. Around the same time, Bell Telephone launched an ad campaign to “Reach Out and Touch Someone.” This is my Call-To-Action to you, dear readers, today. Reach out and call a friend, a family member. Reach out beyond a Facebook post or a text message, to have a conversation in real time. Make an appointment for a phone date. Check in on them, ask how they are doing, let them know how you are doing. Talk about social connection as a health factor, for individuals and our society. Share this post and discuss it. Share something you are grateful for, and something that makes you laugh. Let me know how it goes. If this skill has become rusty, it may take some practice before it feels comfortable again. That's ok. I'm working on this, too. Every day, every season we have a new opportunity to begin.


Sometimes in our lives we all have pain

We all have sorrow

But if we are wise

We know that there's always tomorrow


Lean on me, when you're not strong

And I'll be your friend

I'll help you carry on

For it won't be long

'Til I'm gonna need

Somebody to lean on


Please swallow your pride

If I have things you need to borrow

For no one can fill those of your needs

That you won't let show


You just call on me brother, when you need a hand

We all need somebody to lean on

I just might have a problem that you'll understand

We all need somebody to lean on


Lean on me, when you're not strong

And I'll be your friend

I'll help you carry on

For it won't be long

'Til I'm gonna need

Somebody to lean on


You just call on me brother, when you need a hand

We all need somebody to lean on

I just might have a problem that you'll understand

We all need somebody to lean on


If there is a load you have to bear

That you can't carry

I'm right up the road

I'll share your load


If you just call me (call me)

If you need a friend (call me) call me uh huh(call me) if you need a friend (call me)

If you ever need a friend (call me)

Call me (call me) call me (call me) call me

(Call me) call me (call me) if you need a friend

(Call me) call me (call me) call me (call me) call me (call me) call me (call me)





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