I have believed for a long time that the most important aspect of life is to have good relationships with other people.
Science is finally giving us the proof that this is true by showing the positive effects of social support:
– Older adults with friends actually live longer than those who do not have social ties.
– Married people are generally physically and emotionally healthier than single folks.
Other people matter.
Not only do relationships improve your physical health, science has discovered that relationships may be the single most important source of your life satisfaction and emotional well-being.
Those important relationships, whether with friends or family, provide you with…
- shared activities
- emotional support
- a safe place for self disclosure
- the sense of belonging
- shared interests
Ironically, in spite of increases in both the number of people in the world and your ability to connect with others using technology, the number of people in social isolation is also growing.
In a recent study, one quarter of Americans said that they had no one with whom to discuss their personal troubles. That number has more than doubled in the past 30 years!
And another 19 percent of people had only one such relationship. That’s a total of 44% of all of us.
This is shocking. Social isolation hurts.
One of the key factors in social isolation is the feeling of loneliness. It’s feeling down about your awareness of being alone. It’s not the same as the enjoyment you might feel from being in solitude to think or collect yourself.
Loneliness can even occur when there are other people around – people with whom you are unable to feel connection. At its core, loneliness is about the lack of a sense of community, belonging and love that you need.
Everyone needs to feel a sense of community, belonging and love.
There are a lot of reasons for the decline in the number of close relationships you have.
Children make new friends easily and may spend a great deal of time with their friends; adults have a more difficult time making new friends and spend less than 10% of their time with friends. It’s just harder as you get older.
The hurry-up, achievement-oriented culture in which we all live has focused on the importance of tasks at the expense of the importance of people. Few people talk about how relationships matter these days – except here!
And technology has its part in the decline of relationships. Although you may have virtual connections with hundreds of people, online relationships have not proven to be reliable ways to deepen and sustain solid relationships for the average person. Authenticity, stability, commitment to the relationship and the difficulty of expressing emotions at a distance are contributors to this problem
Children are such an important category of relationships that I want to say an extra few words about them here. There is much to be gained by a relationship with a child.
I believe that you need a few children in your life to keep you young – to keep you awake to life.
- Perhaps you are fortunate to have young children or grandchildren currently in your family
- Perhaps you know some special neighborhood kids
- Perhaps you have an ongoing role in the life of a niece, nephew or friend’s child
If there are not currently children in your inner circle, I encourage you to change that. Wonderful organizations such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters or Foster Grandparents exist to make it easier
to connect with children. One of the meaningful relationships in my life has been with my Little Sister from Big Brothers, Little Sisters. Please consider if there is a child that could help you improve your life.
Let me encourage you right now to assess your current relationships. Think of this as your check up for a healthy and happy future because those relationships really matter.
Don’t forget that the very nature of relationships is that they require attention over time.
Try looking at each of your important relationships soon with the intention of finding ways to increase the connection between you and the other person. You’ll be glad in the future for any time you put into your relationships today.
What relationships do you have right now that sustain you? Where can you look for sources of new close relationships? Share with us in the comments your thoughts about your relationships and whether you want to shift some things or not.