In today’s busy world, it’s all too easy for social lives to fall behind while we spend each day focusing on work, home life and personal errands that just need to get done.
Scheduling some time in the diary to catch up with an old friend can get pushed to the bottom of the list, while actively seeking new social connections can become completely ignored. People never say on their death bed that they wished they had spent more time cleaning the house, so how would your life change if you started actively prioritising your social life over the usual day-to-day chores. Here we look at exactly how putting your social life first can improve your wellbeing…
Studies show that people are more likely to suffer from depression if they hold few social ties with others. By nurturing your social life, you are also nurturing a social support system filled with people you can turn to for help, support and advice. By surrounding yourself with different people, you will gain a sense of security that someone will always be there for you when needed. Different relationships will offer you different forms of support that can all work together to leave you a happier, more well-rounded person. For example, one friend may be empathetic and great for emotional support, while another may offer tangible support such as babysitting duties or offering up their bathroom when your boiler breaks down. Appraisal support is important and can only come from people who know you well. These are people that care and are able to offer honest and constructive feedback about yourself. Others can offer companionship support for activities such as sports and shopping, or simply the opportunity to chat and relax over a cup of tea. A supportive network is key to increasing a long-term sense of wellbeing and happiness.
The quality of your relationships are more important than the quantity. Studies have shown that forming strong ties in your thirties can increase your wellbeing in your fifties, while the quantity of relationships at the same time shows no correlation to happiness at all. Your sense of happiness will increase much more from having just one close friendship rather than many casual acquaintances. Building meaningful and authentic relationships with others is a fulfilling activity, and comes about by allowing open and honest conversation with each other that goes deeper than the simple ‘hi’ or ‘hello’. Make the effort to catch up with those closest to you and engage in meaningful conversation. By allowing each other to freely express any thoughts or feelings you will create stronger and more genuine bonds. This doesn’t mean that you should close yourself off to forming new friendships though. New adult friendships are worth pursuing and can become deeper with time. Let down your guards and allow the opportunity for new connections as you could miss out on some true friendship gems. You are never too old to make new friends…
Happiness is contagious! So surround yourself with the right people who have a positive impact on your life. The feelings and behaviours of the people you spend the most time with will rub off on you, so if you want to increase your happiness make sure you are spending time with happy people. Being around people you find trustworthy, fun and inspiring can help keep you motivated, and you’ll also get a self-esteem boost that these people are happy to call you their friend back. Receiving positive feedback on your personality is so important for a healthy sense of self-worth, as it reaffirms your existence and the belief that you are a good person with value. Humans are social creatures, so seek out the people that make you feel good and make sure you are prioritising quality time with them. Negativity can be infectious too, so curate your social network carefully in order to get the best out of your social routine. This applies to online social networks too!
Your wellbeing increases when you feel you have a sense of purpose.
Broaden your social network by finding a regular club, class or activity that will nurture your individual talents and interests. Research has shown that joining a group that meets once a month can have the same effect on your happiness as doubling your income! People often feel they would be happier if they had more money, but actually a sense of belonging in a social group is worth so much more. Don’t underestimate the effect that regular meet-up’s can have on your mood as feelings of loneliness and solitude can disappear when part of an active group. Take time to think about your interests and find a social club from there. Whether you commit to joining a life drawing, yoga, badminton or reading class, you are ultimately getting out of the house, creating time and space for your social life and nurturing that priceless sense of purpose.
To curate a perfectly-balanced social life, you need to understand your own needs. Everyone needs different amounts of social interaction in different ways. You don’t want to put pressure on yourself to socialise too often or in the wrong way as this will just add stress rather than enhance your life.
Everyone is placed somewhere on the sliding scale from introvert to extrovert, and it is key to work out where you stand. Introverts recharge their energy by being alone, while extroverts recharge by being around people. This means an introvert may prefer one-on-one meet-ups with close friends in a quiet bar, whereas extroverts would prefer to be in a bustling environment surrounded by lots of opportunities to speak to someone new. Think about how much time you need to be left alone, and schedule in personal time alongside social meet-ups and events. If you discover your own individual needs and work with them to create a social life that suits you, you will be on the path to optimal happiness.
About the Authors:
Karen Meager and John McLachlan are the co-founders of Monkey Puzzle Training, two of only a handful of NLP Master Trainers in the UK and co-authors to Time Mastery; a number one best-selling book, and Real Leaders for the Real World; an IBA finalist.
At Monkey Puzzle Training, Karen, John and their team specialise in developing leaders and supporting them in their personal and professional growth. They take the latest scientific and academic thinking and make it accessible and usable in peoples’ work and everyday life.
Both have successful business backgrounds for over 20 years, are clinically qualified in psychotherapy and hypnotherapy. Karen is an INLPTA certified NLP Master Trainer and a Principal Practitioner Member of the Association for Business Psychology as well as a UKCP registered Psychotherapist (DipNLPt). John is an INLPTA certified NLP Master Trainer, a Master Practitioner of NLP, a Principal Practitioner Member of the Association for Business Psychology, as well as a Therapist and a Clinical Hypnotherapist.