Why making an ‘actual’ phone call is good for your mental health

March 18, 2020 12:31:33 PM

Why making an ‘actual’ phone call is good for your mental health

Texting, WhatsApp, messenger, video chat, Instagram stories… the ways we can communicate in 2020 are endless.

But there’s one that we all seem to have forgotten about, that’s now coming to the fore as people self-isolate: the ‘old fashioned’ telephone.

For some, the idea of a landline at home might seem laughable, but for those who have one, it is now proving to be a hotline to hope amid growing uncertainty.

Using the phone goes beyond a voice message or even a video call, as there’s something grounding about making a voice call where you have to dial a number, wait for the ‘rings’ and then the answer.

You’re making time to pause, to connect in a more basic way and to give that person your full attention. Here’s why you should give it a try…

It shows you really care

Dialling a number actually takes some physical effort, which the person on the other end of the line will appreciate.

Just like when you send a card in the post, a phone call has a larger effort attached to it which helps sender and receiver feel appreciated and valued. You’re not just having a conversation, you’re sharing your time.

You can control your voice – and that helps you find balance

Psychologist Natasha Tiwari  who runs education services company The Veda Group explains: “The ease with which we instant message has lead to us getting lazier about communication. But the truth is, nothing will beat an old fashioned phone call when it comes to our mental wellness and sense of being connected.

“A phone call is certainly better for creating a sense of authentic connection. In a voice call we can share our emotions through tone of voice, volume and pitch.”

A woman speaks on the telephone
Talking on the phone cuts through the emotional ambiguity (istock/PA)

The silent moments are key, too

Those little dots when someone is typing on messenger can feel like torture. A phone call still has silent moments, but instead they can feel much more natural and don’t cause the same anxiety.

“The person we speak to will also sense our emotions through that which we don’t say and the moments of silence. All of this leads to a higher quality of conversation,” says Tiwari.

A phone call cuts through the chaos

Social media and our phones are chock-full of information right now. People sharing images of their working-from-home set up, or memes about coronavirus. WhatsApp is pinging faster than that bra you’re now not wearing because you’re working from home.

A phone call presses pause on that flurry into your brain, and that’s no bad thing.

Environmental psychologist and wellbeing trainer Lee Chambers explains: “There is so much conversation about smartphones being bad, but the biggest thing for me about phone calls is you can go deep into someone else’s world and be open and honest with them, but you’re not exposed as you would be on a video chat.”

It’s a dialogue rather than just an exchange

Firing off messages – text or voice – can be quite throwaway. When you’re on a phone call, you are engaged in that moment, says Chambers.

And that can have a huge impact on the result of your discussion and developing your relationship with the other person.

“You end up translating the messages to what you think, and trying to join those dots,” he adds. “Sometimes those dots are not what the person who’s sending the message means.

“A phone call means you can pick up on people’s tone and the words that are used can trigger empathy and compassion.”

And it’s way more intimate than a text



“You don’t get the same connection from texting people. When a phone call is planned, it’s quite an intimate thing,” says Chambers. “You have to focus on the audio. It’s hard to look and listen with the same intensity.

“Think of being in a presentation – if you start reading the powerpoint you aren’t listening to what they are saying. We overestimate how much sensory processing we can do at once.”

You don’t have to be video-ready

All this video calling we do in 2020 is great in so many ways, but there is one downside – people see you! And you might not want that.

So if you want to avoid someone seeing that three-day hair grease or your make-up-free face, a phone call is the ideal solution. All those worries about how you look go out the window.

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