What do you think is better for your health and well-being after the age of 50: Being a homebody with a perfect diet who exercises daily or a guy who regularly spends time out with his friends having a few drinks and eating chicken wings? If you guessed the fun guy, you would be correct! But why?
What researchers discovered is that social connectedness is vital to our health. Just like walking down a dark alley at night is safer with a group of friends, so is the path to well-being. People who are members of social groups live longer, happier lives.
Think about the impact of your social connections on the state of your health. What happens when you’re cut off abruptly by a group or suffer social rejection? Your feelings get hurt, and you become emotionally injured. Isn’t emotional unpleasantness a factor in all pain? Don’t people often cry from physical pain? The psychological and physiological processes of your body are linked together.
To put it another way, have you ever met a ninety or one hundred years old loner? In fact, people considered “Super Agers,” which are people over eighty with the mental abilities of a much younger person, all have one thing in common: many close friends.
Back in the day when we lived in tribes, a person cast from the community usually did not survive. Not only does the group protect an individual from predation, but it provides strength in the face of all adversity. Spraining an ankle alone in the wilderness means you don’t eat or drink. Spending too much time alone leads to psychological distress.
In a sense, many people found themselves in a different wilderness during the pandemic. Over the past year, the long-term effects of social isolation may prove to be the most devastating on society of all the COVID hardships. Our newfound reliance on social media cannot be a replacement for in-person interactions without exacting a harsh toll on our collective well-being.
Relationships with other people, particularly those with friends and lovers, help put life into perspective by motivating, supporting, and destressing you. How do you survive without another to comfort and care for you?
As we age, the benefits of social interaction become even more significant. Some of the health advantages of engaging in relationships later in life include;
- Better eating habits – We know that we started this whole thing by saying that having a beer and chicken wings with friends was okay, and it still is, but eating with others usually leads to healthier choices. You’ll likely choose to eat better if the people around you are doing the same.
- More activity – Social interaction is often part of physical activity. If you find a group of like-minded peers who participate in sports or games, you will find the motivation to keep up. Participating in activities with friends also makes it less likely that you will change your mind and not show up.
- Boosted immune system – Studies show that socially active people have more robust immune systems enabling them to better fight a cold or the flu. It’s also more likely that you get vaccinated for COVID.
- Sharper mind – People who enjoy conversations and friendly debates have keener minds and memories. Your muscles need exercise, and so does your brain. Remaining active socially reduces your risk of cognitive decline.
- Better mood – While discussing politics with a friend of an opposing viewpoint can get frustrating; it’s still better than shouting at the TV. Connecting with other people helps us feel connected to the world. People with a sense of belonging have better outlooks on life and are less vulnerable to negative mood swings.
One of the essential parts of life that we take for granted most of our lives is making and having friends. The places where we find the majority of our friends are work and school. Consider how many friends you have from work and that you may spend more time with them than your family.
What happens when you retire? You become only a fringe member of the work friends group. In the beginning, the invitations to drinks after work or holiday parties remain. But soon, you’ll be out of sight, out of mind. As much as you may want those relationships to continue, they’ll slowly dissipate, and it won’t take long for you to need to find a new group.
Having a retirement plan means more than finances. What are you going to do and how will you meet new people? Part of your retirement plan needs to include a conscious effort to remain socially active.
A great way to stay active is by volunteering and supporting a cause that interests you. You can walk dogs at the animal shelter, work as a docent in a museum, help people find seats at the ballpark, or answer phones at your church. All these opportunities to volunteer keep you active in the community and contribute to your sense of belonging.
Is working as a volunteer not your thing? Join a club or take a class. These activities get you involved with people who have similar interests as you. These organizations feed your passion for learning and self-improvement.
If you find yourself single, don’t be afraid of online dating and matchmaking services. These places are a wonderful opportunity to find a mate for an evening or a lifetime. That’s why you should take Revactin!
Whatever your reasons for getting out and enjoying life with friends, make it an intentional part of your life. After all, why do all the work to stay healthy and live a long life if you don’t have people with whom to enjoy it?
Life is what you make of it. Make it fun.
Take care, even down there.
Share this Post