The Distance Factor: How Far is Too Close for Emotional Comfort?

BY: Neighbors’ Consejo|

The American writer Rebecca Solnit, considers that “distance is not just a physical measurement, but also a physiological and emotional one that can influence how we perceive and interact with the world around us”. This thesis makes us wonder if the distance factor benefits or harms our wellbeing.

Distance “is the amount of space between two places [1] ”; “the state or fact of being apart in space, as of one thing from another; remoteness”; “a linear extent of space.” etc [2] . John O’ Donohue defines it as “a necessary condition for change and growth, allowing us to step back and gain perspective [3] ”.

On the other hand, Psychology Today [4]  mentions something very important about personal space: “Proxemics is the amount of distance that people are comfortable putting between themselves and others. While this distance can vary from person to person, on average, Americans prefer an 18-inch distance between themselves and someone else during a casual conversation. The same source differentiates between four types of spaces:

  • Intimate space: Familiar touch is part of this proximity; the space is close enough to whisper in another’s ear and smell that person’s scent. This space is for our romantic partners, family members and closest friends. It takes 0-18 inches.
  • Personal space: This space is known as friendly but not intimate. We are close, but not that close. This range is of 18 inches to 4 feet.
  • Social space: Casual acquaintance and most professional interactions remain within the 4-10 foot boundary. The classroom is a good example.
  • Public space: This range is also used in public speaking, giving formality to the communication delivered.

Then, does the distance affects our emotional wellbeing? Verywellmind [5]  considers that “when you are not living in the same household or near your partner, distance alone can increase your levels of stress. Results of one study indicated that being in a long-distance relationship was associated with more individual and relationship stress than being in a proximal relationship”.

The American Psychological Association [6]  affirms, “Spending days or weeks at home limited resources, stimulation and social contact can take a toll on mental health. Though controlled studies on interventions to reduce the psychological risk of quarantine and isolation are lacking, psychologist have established best practices for handling these challenging circumstances.”

Undoubtedly, the best example of the effects of distance was caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “Research on true quarantine (complete isolation to contain an illness) shows substantial effects on emotional distress and mental health including depression, generalized anxiety, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress [7] .”

Therefore, we offer you some tips to maintain good relationships in the distance: Make technology your best friend, have an end date, try doing things together, be committed to your relationship, make plans, be confident, have a schedule and stick to it; set boundaries and give verbal assurances [8].

In conclusion, it is important to prioritize self-care, stay connected with loved ones, and seek professional help if needed support your mental wellbeing. That is why we invite you to call to Neighbors’ Consejo [9] , our services are free and our professionals are ready to shorten the distance between feeling bad and having better emotional wellbeing. 











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