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Man, do I love having a strong social network and community. As someone who has never been married, is currently single, and who has never had children, I’ve never deluded myself with the perceived escape hatch of relying on that one Special Someone to turn my grey skies into blue.
As a result of being single for my entire life, I’ve always experienced the power of proactively creating a support network that reflects my top values. I love talking deeply with them about topics that matter to me … and I love knowing that they’re there for me in good times and bad times (and vice versa!).
My recent move to another state has reinforced for me how important it is to establish that network and not let good friendships fade into the sunset (which happens all too frequently).
I’ve written and talked at length about how we overall have moved more toward isolationism and how most singles unconsciously try to make up for this by heaping too much responsibility onto a romantic partnership.
But as I’ve been contemplating new programs that support what I feel is important to address for singles of this day and age, I’ve been re-inspired to help create community and combat isolation and loneliness.
So I thought it was time once again to revisit the many benefits that make forging close relationships worth it.
Here, then, are 10 reasons to find, nurture, and endure the ups and downs of relationships of all kinds:
- Social support in life. It’s helpful to have people in your life who can offer their expertise to help you out. This might mean being a good listener, an empathizer, being handy with fix-it stuff around the house or being an expert negotiator (which can be extremely handy when you need to buy a new car). All of these types of support improve your quality of life, according to recent psychological studies.
- Help in becoming the person you want to be. Another study found that a loving partner or friend who sees you more like the person you want to be will support you in a way that helps you become that person. Because your friend or partner’s response to you can help shape the person you become, they named this the Michelangelo phenomenon.
- An opportunity to be caring toward others. Creating truly happy and high-functioning relationships requires compassion, cooperation, love and kindness; as a result, high-functioning relationships foster altruism. Altruism or selflessness is the principle or practice of concern for the welfare of others. You don’t need a scientific study to tell you that being altruistic can make you feel happy and view yourself in a positive light – though such studies certainly do exist to support this claim. Studies also show that altruism creates a sense of calm and reduces stress.
- Fun and fulfillment. Doing things you enjoy is a wonderful way to spend your time – and having friends to share these experiences with can make them all the more fun and meaningful.
- A sense of being part of something bigger than yourself. People have an inborn need to feel a sense of belonging as well as a need to contribute. And, when people meet this need, they gain a sense of well-being. As part of a network of friends or a more formalized group, you can meet this need and feel like your life has purpose and meaning.
- Reduced stress. Social relationships relieve stress through the many ways in which they are a support and help people to feel good. Although feeling less stressed is positive in itself, reducing stress is also important because stress can cause problems with coronary arteries, insulin regulation, and the immune system. As a quick FYI: When researchers from University College London measured cortisol levels (one marker of chronic stress) in people 30 minutes after the subjects woke up, they found that the loneliest people had levels 21 percent higher than the most socially connected.
- Better health. People who have an active social network and have a cadre of people on whom they can rely have better health in the following ways:
* Fewer Colds: A study in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that after healthy people were given nasal drops containing a strain of cold virus, those with six or more types of social ties (including friends coworkers and fellow volunteers) were four times less likely to get sick than those with only one to three types of social relationships
* Lower Blood Pressure: Researchers have found that people with hypertension who feel they can open up to friends are a third less likely to have their condition go uncontrolled. In another study that tracked people for four years, those who were the least lonely could expect their blood pressure to be 14.4 points lower than that of those who were the most isolated.
* Good Health Habits: Not only do people’s relationships have a directly positive effect upon people’s health, they also influence people’s health behaviors. For instance, spouses and other loved ones often actively encourage exercising, eating a healthy diet, and following up with medical issues. So, not surprisingly, people with emotional support tend to recover better and be less susceptible to illness or disease than those who are more alone.
- Longer life. People who have strong social ties are much more likely to live longer than those who are more isolated. Holt-Lunstad, the lead author of a study (2010) that reviewed and analyzed research in this area, noted, “A lack of social relationships was equivalent to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.”
- Improved intelligence, reasoning and understanding. Socializing can give your mind a workout. According to one study, the more frequently people interacted with others, the higher they scored on cognitive tests. Plus, research in the American Journal of Public Health found that among older women, those who had daily contact with friends saw their risk of developing dementia reduced by 43% compared with those who had contact less than once a week. This may be because social interaction helps form new synaptic connections, staving off cognitive decline.
- Better sleep. In a study in Psychological Science, researchers monitored college students’ sleep patterns and found that those who reported feeling more connected to their peers fell asleep 14 minutes faster and spent 17 fewer minutes awake during the night than their more solitary counterparts did.
So are you as inspired as I am to create a wave of positive connections? Do you want to be part of a movement that helps you succeed and be happy in all areas of your life, while having fun doing so? Then consider joining my Empowered Singles nation. Sign up here. You’ll receive a free 5-session eCourse on Creating a Life You Love as well as get my monthly newsletter which is chock full of great new content. You’ll also be kept abreast of all new programs that I launch, along with special pricing discounts available ONLY to members of the community.
Join us, won’t you?
Photo (c) Micheal Ging