Social Online Training Can Help Against Loneliness and Depression

Mental health issues, loneliness among young people, and societal polarization have surged, especially post-COVID-19. The CovSocial project, a large-scale research initiative led by Tania Singer from the Max Planck Society, aims to help individuals reconnect with themselves, others, and society.

Recent findings show that a ten-week, partner-based online mental training program enhanced resilience, empathy, and compassion while deepening social connections. These short, daily, app-based practices, known as Dyads, significantly reduced loneliness, depression, anxiety, and negative outlooks on life. Researchers hope to scale this training globally to combat loneliness and social divisions.

The work is published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

The Concept of Contemplative Dyads

Tania Singer, a psychologist and social neuroscientist, has developed mental intervention programs based on daily exercises called “Contemplative Dyads.” Unlike solitary mindfulness practices, Dyads involve structured interactions between pairs, where individuals take turns exploring specific questions while the other listens empathetically without judgment.

The basic Affect Dyad involves two questions aimed at understanding and accepting challenging emotions while building resilience through gratitude and care. These exercises are performed daily over ten weeks, supported by weekly coaching sessions. Participants are paired with new partners each week to increase tolerance, reduce prejudice, and foster a sense of common humanity.

Evidence from the CovSocial Project

The CovSocial Project, conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, revealed increased loneliness, stress, depression, and anxiety among Berliners. To mitigate this, the researchers offered a second-phase online mental training program. They compared two 10-week programs: a classic mindfulness-based intervention and a partner-based socio-emotional Dyad intervention.

Social Online Training

Research shows that daily social contemplative exercises with a partner effectively support mental well-being by reducing depression, anxiety, and emotion regulation difficulties, while increasing empathy and compassion. These practices offer hope for overcoming social divides, reducing loneliness, and improving social connections.

Recent Online Trainings:

Key Findings and Benefits

The study found that the ten-week online Dyad program significantly reduced depression, anxiety, and emotion-regulation difficulties while improving resilience. Participants also showed a decrease in “negative interpretation bias,” which contributed to the observed mental health benefits. This suggests that daily gratitude practice with a partner can boost a positive outlook on life, enhancing resilience and mental health.

Increasing Social Connections

Social Online Training
Social Online Training

Another study from the CovSocial project, led by Hannah Matthaeus, found that only the socio-emotional Dyad practice program, not the classic mindfulness program, significantly reduced loneliness. These findings reinforce the effectiveness of daily relational practices in increasing social connections and reducing loneliness.

Future Applications and Hopes

The study’s authors hope to scale the Dyad intervention to benefit society, particularly in high-stress domains like healthcare and education. Future programs, such as Edu:Social School and Health, will test the effects of Dyad programs in classrooms and hospitals to boost resilience, improve classroom climate, and enhance team spirit and social cohesion.


Tania Singer, principal investigator of the CovSocial study, emphasizes the urgency of promoting positive, healthy human interactions to combat rising mental health issues and social divisions. The study shows that communities can be brought together through interrelational mental training programs like Dyads. The Edu:Social project aims to implement these practices in education and healthcare, fostering a sense of belonging, community, and true social connections.

In conclusion, social online training programs like Dyads offer a promising solution to combat loneliness and depression, fostering resilience and improving mental health on a societal scale.

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