mixed greens

I see you

By Carol Roig
Posted 5/10/23

In that odd way that words and ideas sometimes seem to leap off the screen and align themselves, I experienced a tsunami of synchronicity over the past few weeks.

It started innocently enough …

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mixed greens

I see you


In that odd way that words and ideas sometimes seem to leap off the screen and align themselves, I experienced a tsunami of synchronicity over the past few weeks.

It started innocently enough with an article celebrating the addition of the Czech Republic as the 24th signatory to NASA’s Artemis Accords, principles that will guide space exploration as the agency anticipates collaborative voyages to the moon and Mars. 

The Accords confirm critical values of cooperation, mutual aid and transparency. The strategies include creating interoperable technologies and systems; openly sharing scientific data; and engaging in deconfliction, including full communication and due regard for the needs and goals of other signatories.

Over the next few days, I pondered why those words “due regard” seemed so striking. “Due respect” might have done as well, although nowadays it is usually invoked sarcastically, with the sense that what’s due isn’t much. “Due consideration” can also signal dismissal, and “due diligence” sounds like a tiresome technical exercise. There’s no poetry for me in those expressions. “Regard,” with its multiple meanings, suggests a richer range of feeling: clear observation, calm engagement, care, kindly feeling (one of its original meanings) and even admiration. I see you. I’m kindly disposed. There is potential for deeper sympathy and understanding.

From there it mushroomed, and numerous stories I encountered, from the restoration of peatlands in Finland to an oral history theatre project in a coal community in Ohio, seemed to hinge on that powerful element of thoughtful regard. 

Then on May 3, the surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murtha, issued a public health advisory on a growing mental health crisis, a national epidemic of loneliness made more acute by the COVID pandemic and our ubiquitous and often divisive social media. 

One of five key social determinants of health, isolation contributes to stress, anxiety, depression, dementia and significant increases in risk for heart disease and stroke for adults, and an increased risk of premature death by more than 60 percent, according to the Surgeon General’s advisory. 

Most alarmingly, social isolation is most prevalent among young people: KFF, a public charity originally founded as the Kaiser Family Fund, recently found that 50 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 24 had reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression in the first months of 2023. 

Dr. Murtha calls for a range of actions addressing mental health. In addition to better research and heightened awareness for medical providers, the plan calls for investments in the physical environment that support mobility and safe interactions, like parks, libraries, playgrounds and public transportation. 

It also recommends policies like paid family leave and a redesign of our digital environments to reduce bullying and predatory behaviors. 

The plan calls on all of us to give serious thought to how we engage with each other, to develop a “culture of connection.” In other words, to give each other due regard.

Last year, Delaware became the first state to require health insurers to provide a yearly behavioral health wellness check for every insured person, including children, as part of the annual wellness check. Ohio, California and Oregon are working to guarantee access to mental health screenings. In the UK, doctors are experimenting with prescriptions for museum visits, cultural events and other opportunities for social engagement. And communities planning for climate resilience are incorporating strategies to reduce social isolation because it makes people more vulnerable to extreme weather events like heat waves and flooding. 

Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger leads the Harvard Study of Adult Development, a long-term study that began in 1938. In a recent TED Talk he described how, 30 years ago, the research team began to document strong correlations between “warm relationships” and well-being. “We found that people had less depression, they were less likely to get diabetes and heart disease, that they recovered faster from illness when they had better connections with other people.” 

All kinds of relationships were found beneficial: casual acquaintances, intimate friends and spouses, work colleagues, the check-out person at the grocery store, even cordial conversations with complete strangers help reduce stress and boost health. 

Dr. Waldinger advises us to practice “social fitness” just as we exercise our bodies, to find the level of interaction that suits our personalities, and to get more comfortable striking up casual conversations, “almost like exercising a muscle.” 

He also urges us to “turn toward the voices that make you feel more open and more inclusive.” 

The social connections we build may alleviate the isolation of those at greater risk than ourselves. We may never know what goes on in other people’s lives, but we can create connections that serve as a kind of mutual aid. 

If we want due regard for ourselves, the way to start is to offer it generously to those around us.

I see you, mixed greens, NASA’s Artemis Accords, Czech Republic, health, isolation, stress, anxiety, depression, dementia, heart disease, stroke


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