Happy Connections (and why we’re better off together)
It turns out that we’re happier together. Good, healthy relationships help us thrive. We feel stronger, more equipped for life and we are physically healthier. The key to well-being is to be social and have strong relationships.
It’s true that a lack of genuine social connection is a health risk. Being lonely takes a toll on the immune system, leads to depression, anxiety and anti-social behaviour. People who are lonely have recorded higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which raises the risk of heart disease. It’s possible to be lonely in a busy house. People can choose to isolate themselves deliberately, to close the door to their bedroom, or never look up from their screen.
Just having one strong relationship can make a world of a difference. There was an experiment conducted in 2008 that found people perceived a hill to be steeper if they were standing at the bottom alone as opposed to with a friend. It’s quality not quantity that counts for us in life. Trusting, secure relationships see us at our best. Good relationships encourage positive behaviours like eating well together and exercising.
Being together is good for us
In 2015 a Ted Talk went viral on the longest ever study on happiness and successful lives. Dr Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development looked at 724 men over 75 years across a diverse section of America.
‘Our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned into relationships, with family, with friends, with community, Waldinger said. ‘It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, are happier, they’re physically healthier and they live longer than people who are less well connected.’
It’s not things that make us happy, or even experiences; it’s other people and the quality of our connections to them.
Waldinger recommends ‘replacing screen time with people time’. He suggests livening up relationships by doing something new together like going for a walk. And we’d like to add a games night to his suggestions to reach out to family members or friends that may need a gentle push to get together. A simple game of cards is one of the easiest ways to start a conversation. Remember loneliness is toxic and community is everything.