"We cannot live only for ourselves.
A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men."
The friends you choose, how many friends you have and the quality of those relationships has more to do with healthy living than you might realize. Consider some of the following research studies:
- An Australian 10 year study indicated that elderly people with a larger social circle were 22% less likely to die during the study.
- Once study indicated that memory loss was slowed for elderly Americans with a strong social network.
- When researchers at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill compiled data from 148 studies about health and social ties they came to the conclusion that people with poor social ties are 50% more likely to die during the studies follow up time frame.
- One very large long term study showed that participants who had a friend who became obese were 57% more likely to become obese themselves.
Family is not enough. According to the Australian 10 year study mentioned above "The effects of social networks with children and relatives were not significant with respect to survival over the following decade." To be a healthy balanced and healthy human being you need friends!
As we move from adolescence and further and further into adult life friendships can become more and more difficult to develop and hold on to.
So here are some thoughts on being a healthy social person.
Cherish The Friendships You Have
The friendships you currently have make you a more healthy happy person. Be grateful for that! Reach out to the friends you have and let them know how special they are to you.
Sometimes life can get in the way and you might go weeks, months or even years without seeing your closest friends. Try to set up a schedule to get together with your closest friends. Once a week, once a month, every 6 months if they live far away, whatever you can manage but make it a priority and hold eachother accountable to make sure you get together!
You will both live longer for the effort!
Start With Those Around You
Get to know the people who are around you that you don't currently connect with. Invite the neighbors over to a barbeque. Ask a co-worker at the office to have lunch with you. Spend some time getting to know your kids friends parents.
Instead of rushing around obsessing about how busy you are (aren't we all!) without noticing the people around you take a little bit of extra time to slow down and engage. These are people you already have at least some small thing in common with (where you live, where you work, your kids) so start there and see what builds.
Get Out of The House
Go do stuff! Join a book club, become more active at your religious center (church, synagogue, temple, mosque whatever your thing is), join an adult sports league, start a knitting/scrap booking/quilting club, volunteer at the local animal shelter or road race.
You have interests, you have hobbies (if you don't get on it and find one). Go find places where others who share your interests get together and get social.
Find Friends Online
You don't want to only have online friends, but a mix of online and real life friends can be a great benefit to your health.
Try leaving comments on your favorite blogs and interact the the writer and the other readers (start here!). Check out online forums on your favorite topics. Amazon has what they call "customer communities" that are basically forums for just about any topic imaginable.
There are also all sorts of online social websites for all sorts of different interests! Feel free to come be my friend on GoodReads (a social networking site for book lovers and authors) or DailyMile (for active people, mostly runners).
Relationships Define Who You Are
Who you are as a person has more to do with how you act and treat others and less to do with what you think or feel.
What you actually do in this world is what matters, and you need people in your life to bare witness to and support the things you do. You need to have people in your life to engage with and challenge you.
It can be difficult to form and hold on to friendships, but your health and your overall personal growth as a person will greatly benefit for the effort.