Before smartphones, every photo you took with your film camera was printed; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Who could have imagined that 21st-century life would mean investing time and energy into curating our lives for public consumption? Taking dozens of pictures of ourselves, our activities, even our food, but only sharing those that we deem perfect? Social media is fun, but it’s not an accurate representation of the real world. We were built to interact with one another physically and emotionally, and our health and well-being depend on it.
Although diet and exercise are vital to wellness and longevity, real-life friendships (outside of social media) also play a large role in our wellbeing. Face-to face social support allows us to feel heard, needed, and valued. In fact, one of the secrets of the oldest and happiest people on earth is having strong social ties. Almost all centenarians (those living to 100 years and beyond) interviewed say they are part of some sort of community group and enjoy socializing on a regular basis with others who have common interests. Simply put, people with strong social connections live longer, happier, healthier lives than those who are more isolated. It makes sense. Our community allows us to be a part of the big picture and gives us something to look forward to.
If you haven't found your “tribe” (a group that allows you to feel supported, and fulfilled while also giving support to others), I highly recommend seeking out at least one new group where you can begin to connect.
• Volunteer for a charity or organization whose mission resonates with you
• Take a class related to a hobby you enjoy
• Join a “Meet-up” group focused on a physical activity you like (walking, hiking, biking, bowling, golf, kayaking, etc.)
• Join a local social club to help you make new friends in your town
• Join a community outreach group at a local church
• Join or create a neighborhood association
You can also strengthen relationships within your existing community by scheduling time to meet with friends you already have. Set up a walking group (where you can chat and move at the same time), start a new book club, or institute a girls/guys night out twice a month.
It is far better to have a few authentic friends you can count on than a plethora of acquaintances who aren’t really there for you. I encourage you to call a friend this week and set a time to catch up in real life rather than texting. Face-to-face interaction is essential for spiritual fulfillment and personal growth.
***A review of studies involving the impact of social relationships on health: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review showed that across 148 different studies, there was a 50% increased likelihood of survival for participants with strong social relationships. The researchers concluded that: “The influence of social relationships on the risk of death are comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality such as smoking and alcohol consumption and exceed the influence of other risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity.”