• Heather Young

Social Snacking: A simple way to feed your craving for connection

Updated: Jun 4


The newest research on the effect of COVID-19 on families with young children in Canada suggests that rates of depression and anxiety are higher than previously recorded levels.


One of the recommendations in response to this research is to look for opportunities for "social snacking" throughout the day to help build more positive emotions.


What is "social snacking"?


Social Snacking is a term coined by Gardner (2005) to refer to brief, positive, daily interactions that contribute to happiness, a sense of belonging and identity.


They come into play when social connections are unavailable, such as being marooned on a desert island, home during your maternity leave or in lockdown due to a worldwide pandemic.


He explains that at some point in our lives, we "all share the need for daily social sustenance and face challenges to belonging".


Examples of a social snacking are:

  • waving to a neighbour

  • smiling with your eyes above your mask at the barista

  • brief conversations with the person at the grocery store checkout

  • playing peek a boo with a baby while waiting in line

  • calling a loved one via video call so you can see their face as well as hear their voice


Why is "social snacking" good for you?


How many of you (like me!) have had unexpectedly lengthy conversations with the pizza delivery person over the past year?


We are naturally social beings who crave connection. Social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders during the Covid-19 Pandemic have left us feeling desperate for any form of socialization. It’s normal to want to grab onto any brief social interaction in order to help us feel a sense of belonging and connection.


This idea is useful not just during a pandemic, but also during your maternity leave or as a stay at home parent. Being home with little ones can feel very isolating. Adult social interaction isn't as common as when you're working outside of the home.


Looking for opportunities to engage in social snacking is a simple strategy that can help maintain that sense of social belonging and coping.


These positive interactions release oxytocin (the feel good hormone in our brains) so it’s not surprising that a small social snack will leave you with a smile on your face. This simple tool can help you manage stress, build resilience, and create healthy social connections.


These interactions develop trust and predispose us to pay it forward by responding in a similar way to the next person we encounter. This leads to increased community participation that ultimately helps create more cohesive and naturally supportive communities.


Choosing healthy social snacking


It's important that we be mindful of how these brief interactions impact our communities positively and negatively. Just as positive interactions help build supportive communities, negative interactions create disconnection.


Notice how it feels when you curse the driver who cuts you off, decline a virtual game night with friends, or complain to the store clerk that your favourite chips aren't in stock. These negative interactions affect our wellbeing as much as the positive ones.


Be intentional in your social snacking, choosing ones that support your health. Aim to have at least one healthy social snack a day to maintain good health and wellbeing.


What social snack will you choose today?


I'd love to hear from you. Share your takeaways with me at hello@heatheryoungcounselling.com or send me a DM on Instagram.


-Heather