I said this before and I cannot stress enough the reality of this statement. Humans are social animals, they always lived in groups, connected to other fellow bipeds. Only in recent times, the culture started to focus on individualism as the norm: how we all are special and unique, basically different and superior to the others. And the wonders of technology deepen the disconnection even further.
I came to realise this more when I moved to Western Europe. One thing I will always appreciate from my Eastern European background is the idea of togetherness that still exists there, the group of people close to you, the community you can still rely on when in need.
Having said that, let’s not deviate and enter into polemics of which culture is better. It’s wiser to take accountability and have this analysis at an individual level.
If you ever thought about your own happiness or contentment and what you can do to achieve those, probably you did the same as me
and focused initially on getting it from outside: buying stuff, getting the job you always dreamed of, finding the perfect partner. This works, but on a short term. It’s not consistent.
In time, I realised that it brings me more joy and fulfilment to be connected to people and having meaningful relationships with others than buying material things or reaching some auto-imposed targets. Life is not linear, there will always be ups and downs. For everyone. No one has unicorns pooping rainbows in their life from beginning till the end. But, what I appreciate and I’m grateful for in my life, is the quality of people from my circle who made the ride easier and exciting. I guess I’m one of the lucky ones.
There are studies that show how social connection influence your life for the better:
Improved wellbeing and quality of life – to feel understood and linked to other people and to feel valuable to them has a great impact on your overall health (mind, body and spirit). People who experienced living away from home can relate to this even more. The social circle doesn’t have to be a physical one within close distance. In this aspect technology really helps. The quality of the relationships is more important than the distance between people.
Improved mental health – as depression and anxiety are the diseases of this century, to feel like you belong and have meaningful interactions with other human beings increases your happiness, decreases the stress and boosts your self-esteem.
Increased life expectation – it was demonstrated that the individuals with stronger social relationships had a 50% increased likelihood of survival! Also, not being socially connected can be worse than smoking, obesity and high blood pressure.
This sounds all good, but what can you do if you’re an introvert or like to be more of a loner and these things don’t come easily to you? I would say it should start with a conscious decision to make it work and then putting the effort to actually do it. A few options can be:
Improve the relationships you already have and want to keep in your life; with family, friends, colleagues and/or neighbours. It takes willingness, time and effort to maintain good relationships. They are like living organisms that need to be fed.
Try to extend your broader social group by volunteering, doing community work or joining a group based on your interests and beliefs.
Be willing to actively listen and interact even if it’s just to greet and ask how a colleague feels. The message you’re transmitting is: “I hear you, I’m here and you are not alone” which can have incredible effect on boosting good mood on both participants in the interaction.
So, be kind to others and choose your tribe wisely! It will make your life much more enjoyable and meaningful.