Nearly 10 months into a global pandemic, many Americans are dealing with intense anxiety and depression under the pressures of isolation, prompting psychology experts to urge people to check-in with friends and family members on a regular basis.
All of it has given the phrase "how are you doing?” a more important placement in our daily dialogue, says Vanderbilt University Psychology Professor Craig Smith.
"A lot of people are feeling lonely and isolated, especially if they're following guidelines. So, having someone check-in with them and ask, 'How are you doing?' part of the message that sends is, 'I'm thinking of you, I care about you,'" Smith said.
Smith says that the isolation so many Americans are feeling is all the more reason to go out of your way to check-in on family and friends. And it's not just words; actions can say something, too. Whether it's something as simple as sending someone flowers or dropping off baked goods, small acts of kindness can go a long way right now.
"Simply getting a short email or a phone call saying, 'How are things going?' really means a lot," Smith added.
Boston College Communication Professor Michael Serazio says for all the social upheaval the pandemic created it's also created an opportunity for people to be more honest with one another about how they're feeling.
"We’ve gone through such trauma and turmoil and disruption that this has naturally made us more vulnerable. Small phrases like, “How are you doing?” become a way to heal us," Serazio said.
In a time when our social lives have been profoundly changed, words, he says, can carry more meaning.
"If pre-2020, 'How are you doing?' would elicit, 'Fine and you,' and that was all that was expected and allowed, now the assumption is you can say, 'okay,' or, 'not great,'" Serazio added.
Helping one another manage the pressure of this pandemic might be as simple as saying, 'How, are you doing?'"
This is part of a series of stories examining the question: How are you doing?