The Beatles were right: we do indeed get by with a little help from our friends.
Strong personal relationships and feeling connected to community aren’t just nice ideas – they have a real impact on the quality of our lives. People who have close friends and confidants, friendly neighbors and supportive co-workers are less likely to experience sadness, loneliness and low self-esteem, and have fewer problems related to eating and sleeping.
Most of us experience stress from time to time. We’re busy people juggling many responsibilities and challenges. In these times of stress, the number and quality of social ties that we have directly our impact our ability to successfully handle that stress. That’s because close and supportive interpersonal relationships help discourage negative coping behaviors like substance use, self-harm and violence, and in turn, encourage positive coping behaviors, like exercise, writing, and talking about problems.
Robert D. Putnam expressed this idea in his groundbreaking book Bowling Alone that “…Happiness is best predicted by the breadth & depth of one’s social connections.” This level of “connectedness” takes many forms in many different spheres of life, including our families, peer relationships, neighborhood, schools, workplaces and organizations.
There are many ways that positive, supportive relationships have a lasting impact on mental wellness. For example, the connection between teenagers and their parents and families is associated with lowered drug use and suicidal behavior, especially among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. The Family Acceptance Project highlights this link.
Feeling like we fit in and have a place in the world is a universal human need. Strong connections can increase a person’s sense of belonging to a group, and a sense of personal value or worth. Stronger connections to others naturally help us gain access to larger networks of support. To highlight this point, the more connected students feel toward their school, the more likely they’ll perform better in the classroom, have better school attendance, and stay in school longer, and the less likely that they’ll participate in harmful behaviors, such as smoking, abusing alcohol and other drugs, and using violence.
This is all to say that the more robust our connections are to each other and to our communities, the happier and healthier we’ll be.
And in that spirit, we all have a responsibility to take care of each other. Get to know your neighbors. Give that friend you haven’t seen in a while a call or drop them an email. Meet up with a friend or family member you’ve been meaning to see. Let them all know that you’ve been thinking about them. You never know the positive impact you might have – on yourself as well as on them.
Weekly Flu Report, January 20, 2017 posted on Jan 20
The latest weekly flu report indicates that rates of flu-like illness increased slightly over the past seven days. We’ve seen these rates head up and down over the past few weeks, which is an indication of how unpredictable flu can be. Here in New England, most flu …Continue Reading Weekly Flu Report, January 20, 2017
Folic Acid for the Future! posted on Jan 18
We all know the common New Year’s resolutions this time of year: losing weight, getting more organized and catching up on sleep are at the top of many people’s lists! But chances are, many women, in particular, are overlooking an important addition to their list: …Continue Reading Folic Acid for the Future!
Weekly Flu Report, January 13, 2017 posted on Jan 13
The latest weekly flu report shows a slight decrease in rates of flu-like illness in Massachusetts over the past 7 days. But flu can be unpredictable, and we’re not likely to see the peak of flu season until February or even March. So if you haven’t gotten a …Continue Reading Weekly Flu Report, January 13, 2017