I’ve read more than enough articles about how the COVID-19 pandemic has damaged all our relationships. Ditto about how loneliness has reached epidemic proportions. I get it: Feeling socially connected is good for you, and the depressing opposite is also true.

But when psychology researcher Dave Smallen contacted me with an idea for a story about how to actually foster those valuable moments of connection, I was intrigued. Instead of hammering home how isolated so many people feel, he described four kinds of interactions that help people connect. Based on social science evidence, Smallen writes, these behaviors may help you “practice new ways to engage with others.” I think my favorite might be just sharing a laugh.

This week we also liked articles about the similarities between book bans in the U.S. and apartheid-era South Africa, Ukraine’s Saint Sophia Cathedral and the swift loss of carbon stored in upper Midwest forests.

Maggie Villiger

Senior Science + Technology Editor

Connecting can mean sharing a hearty laugh. Klaus Vedfelt/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Feeling connected enhances mental and physical health – here are 4 research-backed ways to find moments of connection with loved ones and strangers

Dave Smallen, Metropolitan State University

Psychology researchers know what kinds of behavior enhance feelings of social connection.

The Saint Sophia Cathedra as seen from a surrounding wall tower in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 26, 2022. AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens a cultural heritage the two countries share, including Saint Sophia Cathedral

J. Eugene Clay, Arizona State University

Saint Sophia Cathedral was built under the reign of Grand Prince Yaroslav, whose father, Volodymyr, converted the region to Christianity.

Books are often targeted when they are sympathetic to the oppressed. Eskay Lim / EyeEm via Getty Images

What the US can learn from apartheid-era book bans in South Africa

Helen Kapstein, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

A scholar of literature sees striking parallels between contemporary book bans in the US and those that took place in South Africa during apartheid.