Cultivating Social Connections

In an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus, 2020 saw in-person activities limited or canceled. Our homes became the base of operation – for school, work, and socializing. We’ve been challenged to keep up our social connections going in a virtual world. How can we go about cultivating social connections when circumstances dictate that we must keep our physical distance?

Humans are wired to connect to others. Connection is a feeling of being close with others and having a sense of belonging. Remember the eight dimensions of wellness and how they are connected: Social connection creates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional, and physical well-being. In fact, research suggest that the quality of our social ties might be the single biggest predictor of our well-being. Research shows that people who feel connected have lower levels of anxiety and depression, have greater empathy, and can have a 50% increased chance of living longer.

It’s the Quality, Not the Quantity, of Your Friendships. Whether you have a lot of friends or few friends, you can feel high social connection, or you may have feelings of loneliness or isolation. What matters is the internal feeling of connection you have, regardless of the number of friends.

More good news – if you do not feel you have enough social connection in your life, you can nurture it!

 How can you cultivate social connections? Here are some ideas:

  • Take Care of Yourself. Stress is linked to high self-focus and lower sense of connection. If you are happy from within, you are more likely to feel connected and to reach out to others. Find some self-care and stress reduction techniques that work for you. Write, draw, listen to music, do something creative, or talk to a friend. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and take a break from social media. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some tips for teens for creating a personal stress management plan.
  • Help Others. Do acts of service and kindness for others. Research shows volunteering can help create a sense of connection and purpose. It takes creativity to come up with ideas for covid-friendly community service activities. In Delaware County, some clubs wrote letters to senior centers, and had seniors write them back and became pen pals as a result. What ideas can you think of?
  • Let Others Help You. When we need help, we need to remember that it’s okay to ask for it. We often don’t want to bother others with our troubles. However, research shows people are willing to help, but they don’t know we need help if we don’t ask. And it will help create a sense of belonging for those we ask!

Today’s Take-Away: Social connections matter for your health and there are things you can do to cultivate them. You can download the Social Connections Tip Sheet here.

More resources can be found on the Ohio 4-H Mental Health Month page. Come back here for more information and ideas.

Yours in Health,


Theresa Ferrari, Extension Specialist

Laryssa Hook, 4-H Educator, Delaware County

Adapted from: Seppala, E. (2017, June 28). Connectedness & health: The science of social connection. Stanford University.

Actions You Can Take: 4-H’ers in Times of National Crisis

All the recent events and how people have responded have me thinking about a lot of things. I wondered what 4-H’ers had done during other times of national crisis, and how what happened in the past might help us learn how young people can take control in our present time of pandemic. First let’s take a look at what 4-H’ers did during World War II.

A Look at the Past

The 4-H History Preservation webpage documents how 4-H’ers supported the war effort during World War II.

Girl with corn plant

4-H member with corn plant in her Victory Garden

They sold war bonds and grew victory gardens. To raise money to buy war equipment, planes, ships, and ambulances, they collected and sold scrap metal, rubber, and phonograph records. They even collected milkweed pods, collecting enough to stuff 1 million life jackets – no small effort!

There’s even a reference to efforts of Ohio 4-H members on the 4-H history page:

“Winding up 1943 outstanding war services, Ohio 4-H members and leaders purchased $510,041 in War Bonds for which a four-motored flying fortress heavy bomber aircraft was purchased and christened “Buckeye 4-H” at Lockbourne Air Base [now Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base near Columbus] in a special ceremony at which Ohio Director of Extension H. C. Ramsower presided. Junior Stuckey, Circleville, and Betty Brandt, Rushville, spoke for 4-H members. Lt. Dick Brandt, brother of Betty and a former 4-H’er, also participated. He was on furlough after having completed 50 bombing missions over Africa, Sicily, and the Continent.”

From these examples, we see that 4-H’ers were asked to do things, things that involved something outside themselves. They felt like they we doing their part to contribute to the war effort. They could see the tangible results of their efforts. These efforts could be measured – in pounds of scrap metal collected, number of planes sponsored, or amount of vegetables grown. I am sure that if asked, today’s 4-H’ers would do the same.

The Present Pandemic

Enter the coronavirus pandemic. What’s the difference compared with other times of national crisis? It seems like we’re being asked to stop doing things – stay home; no group activities like club meetings, graduations, or birthday parties; stop seeing friends. If we’re going to help, we think we should be doing something more active. We are being asked to do things, but they are more self-focused, at least on the surface. But if you look deeper, we’re being asked to do these things to protect not just ourselves, but to protect others. It’s harder to measure these things. But it’s part of our collective responsibility to our community, country, and world.

What can YOU do?

At times like this, it’s easy to feel out of control. But you have control over your behavior. Here are actions you can take:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds. (See Callia’s hand washing video here.)
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover sneezes and coughs.
  • Wear a mask or face covering over your nose, mouth, and chin when out in public. (Go to the Ohio Department of Health for a mask checklist.)
  • Keep a physical distance of 6 feet from others when out in public, even if you’re wearing a face covering.
  • Stay at home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands or after touching surfaces.
  • Keep high-touch surfaces clean (e.g., doorknobs, light switches).
  • Stay connected to others virtually.
  • Spend time in outdoor recreation.
  • Keep a positive attitude and practice self-care (see our recent post on this topic).

There are other things 4-H’ers can do. In one of our previous posts, we featured 4-H’ers using their sewing skills to make masks to donate. Others are making signs or videos to thank essential workers in their community or writing cards to residents living in senior centers. Camp counselors are working on ways to do virtual camps this summer. These things are important too.

many children holding letters to spell thank you

4-H’er’s from Morgan County did a photo collage to thank essential workers

Handmade cards

Cards made by 4-H’ers from Columbiana County

4-H'ers with signs to thank essential workers

Brown County 4-H’ers displaying their signs thanking essential workers

3 4-H'ers with beef cattle and signs thanking essential workers

4-H’ers and friends from Wood County thank essential workers

Some day in the future the coronavirus pandemic will be behind us, part of history, a story to tell your grandchildren. As with other times of national crisis, what will be the story others will read about what 4-H’ers did during this time of pandemic? YOU can be part of writing that story. You can commit to using your head, heart, hands, and health to keep yourself and others safe.

Today’s 4-H Journal page helps you think about actions you are already doing and action you can take.

Yours in health,



Actions I Can Take Activity Page Social Media post

Daily Dose- Let’s Go on a Hunt…for the Good Stuff

When things are changing and out of our control, it is easy to focus on the negative. But even when things are unpredictable and not going the way we planned like with the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still a lot of good things going on. Being resilient, or having the capacity or ability to recover from difficulties, is a life skill that we can work on all the time. One way to develop this skill is to challenge ourselves every day to “Hunt the Good Stuff.”

Hunting the good stuff is seeking out the positives in every situation. It might be difficult to find them sometimes, but they are there! Often our first reaction is to focus on all the negative things. That just means we have to look harder to find the good stuff. Hunting the good stuff is easy when life is going our way. But it’s just as important when we find ourselves in situations that where we don’t have control. We may not be able to change the situation, but we can change how we think of it.

Have you heard the saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade?” That’s hunt the good stuff!

Focusing on the positives and analyzing them helps you see the light in each situation. In turn, it helps build your resiliency and trains your mind to look for the positives even in stressful situations.

Hunting the good stuff requires us to stop and think about what’s going on. It’s another way to practice mindfulness, which we wrote about in an earlier post that you can find here.

Hunting the good stuff helps you to be more positive, leads to gratitude, and helps you mentally and physically. So even though life is a bit unpredictable right now, and we are facing change and disappointment, focus on the good! To help you with that, we created a Hunt the Good Stuff 4-H Bingo! Use this card to seek out the positives that are going on right now. If you haven’t done something yet, use it as a way to seek out positive activities to expend your energy or use it to help you come up with some other fun ideas!

Download PDF Version Here

Today’s Guest Post and BINGO game was brought to you by Christy Clary, Educator in 4-H Youth Developed located in Brown County, Ohio.


Daily Dose – The Loss of What Might Have Been

4-H clover emblem

Sometimes we experience a loss like no other, a loss that means that something near and dear to our life is put on hold, or may not happen the way it was supposed to. We certainly have a lot of that going on right now with the current Coronavirus pandemic. It’s changed the way we learn, work, live, laugh, and love one another. One loss after another stacks up until finally one day you realize, this is too much. This is too much burden to carry.

I’m telling you it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to grieve the loss of what you thought would happen or was supposed to be. You can be angry, be sad, or just be. Whatever you do, you must express and manage your emotions in a healthy way. We will all handle changes differently. When one person is expressing sadness, another may simply be quiet. We process all things, all trauma, differently.

Yes, I said trauma. Trauma is defined by Merriam-Webster as “…c: an emotional upset.” Mental health experts remind us that any situation that leaves us feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma. The changes, challenges, and things happening to us right now are causing trauma. It’s upsetting because there are so many unknowns and the changes keep coming. It’s okay to feel these emotions. With time, you will realize that you have what it takes to get through these feelings. It’s okay to reach out to others to help you get through tough times. You will learn that we humans are given the great power of choice and ability to do the best with what we have, when we have it.

For today’s 4-H journal entry I want you to identity a change of plans that has happened due to the Coronavirus pandemic. In this journal page you can explore feelings related to it, your ability to change it, and who you can talk to. Writing a letter to this pandemic to express what it has done to you is another way to share how you feel.

It’s upsetting because there are so many unknowns and the changes keep coming. It’s okay to feel these emotions. With time, you will realize that you have what it takes to get through these feelings. It’s okay to reach out to others to help you get through tough times. You will learn that we humans are given the great power of choice and ability to do the best with what we have, when we have it. We are 4-H’ers after all. There is much work to be done and you all are up for the challenge. The choice is within you and deciding what that challenge will be and how you can make an impact on the world given the change that has happened to you.

The Loss of What Might Have Been (PDF Download)


In great love,



Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor



Daily Dose – Mental Health

National Public Health Week and COVID-19

Public Health Week - Mental Health MondayMONDAY: MENTAL HEALTH — advocate for and promote emotional well-being

Dealing with COVID-19 is causing heightened levels of stress. In particular, isolation and quarantine can be highly stressful. Because it means separation from loved ones, especially those detained off-shore or in other countries. Many in the public health and health care sectors, as well as those working in affected industries, are shouldering a significant mental health burden.

Reach out and check on your loved ones and community members. Read and share such resources as the World Health Organization’s Mental Health Considerations During COVID-19 Outbreak and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tips on managing anxiety and stress.


Journal Entry of the Day

page with lines and numbers

Benefits of Staying Home Journal Page

Today’s 4-H Journal is focused around Mental Health and how we have changed our lives since the onset of Stay-at-Home orders, working from home, and dealing with COVID-19. Staying home is definitely a change, but today we are going to consider the benefits of staying home right now! What are five (5) benefits of staying home? What things have you enjoyed being home with your family? Have you tried any new activities?

Heather’s List of 5 Benefits of Staying Home

  1. Regular walks in the neighborhood!
  2. Spending more time with my dogs.
  3. Working on hobbies at night and learning new skills.
  4. Exploring ways to share information from home to 4-H’ers like you all!
  5. More time to sit, relax, and enjoy the sunshine.

To download the full PDF of this, click the following link:

In great love,