As the school year has blossomed, my social life has withered. Soccer games, tennis practice, dance class and homework have my role as Mom taking center stage. Although I cherish that role, my physical and emotional health suffers when it dominates to the point that my social life becomes non-existent.
Human beings are social animals. We need others to fully thrive. In fact, our lives depend on other humans. If you think about it, as infants we rely completely on others to care for us. So the need for human interaction starts from day one. We develop and learn about the world around us through the filter of other people. Our connections to others are essential to our survival, as well as to our happiness and success.
Research has shown that having few friends and weak social ties to the community is just as harmful to your health as being an alcoholic or smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes a day.1 Studies have also found that weak social ties are actually more harmful to our overall health than a sedentary lifestyle and twice as much a health risk as obesity.1 Knowing that complete health involves connectedness to others, this is an important time to protect and nurture your relationships.
When the weather gets colder and the days get shorter we find ourselves spending more time indoors. Couple that with the craziness of the holidays and it’s easy to put our social life on the back burner. All those factors contribute to an unhealthy recipe for loneliness, depression and isolation.
Catching up with friends and family doesn’t have to require a lot of work or a huge time commitment. Just start by making several phone calls a week to touch base with the people in your life that provide you with positive support. Invite a friend or family member for lunch, a cup of coffee, or a cocktail once a week. See if your neighbor wants to join you on your next power-walk. Stay healthy and help others in the process – reach out and remain connected.
1. Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Timothy B. Smith, J. Bradley Layton