Want To Be Healthier and Happier? Focus on Social Fitness.
The Good Life: Lessons from the World's Longest Scientific Study of Happiness came out this month by Harvard psychiatrist, Robert Waldinger. This book focuses on the question of what makes a life fulfilling and meaningful. The resounding answer is our relationships.
NPR host Ari Shapiro interviewed Robert Waldinger about his book and asked Waldinger what would be the one thing people should do to be happier?
Waldinger’s response was, “invest in relationships with other people.” He says, “We found that the strongest predictors of who not just stayed happy but who was healthy as they went through life - the strongest predictors were the warmth and the quality of their relationships with other people.”
Further, Waldinger points out that we benefit from all kinds of relationships: friends, spouses, coworkers, and even the people we exchange short bits of conversation with when we are buying our coffee or walking in the neighborhood. Waldinger emphasizes that “we get little hits of well-being in all these different kinds of relationships.”
The researcher explains that relationships are “stress regulators.” Chronic stress negatively impacts our health over time, but good relationships relieve stress. Having strong connections with others and being able to reach out to those people when life is challenging helps relieve the stress and helps us return to a baseline or homeostasis.
So, why not make it a goal to invest in your social fitness this year?
Social fitness can be defined as “the degree to which you assess, build, and optimize the relationships and interactions you have with others.”
How to get started?
Waldinger suggests two simple ways: 1) Think of someone you miss or would like to see more of, and send them a text, email or call them on the phone. 2) Think about the things you love to do or already do and find ways to do those things with others.
To improve my social fitness this year, I’m actively reaching out to old friends who I haven’t seen for a while. I’m starting with a short text and gradually reestablishing our friendship with the goal of planning meetups with them.
With regards to the hobbies I enjoy which include cooking, hiking, seeing live music, I’m inviting others to join these activities with me which means I’m planning more dinner parties, group hikes and concert dates.
What would you like to do to improve your social fitness this year?
Feel free to drop me an email! I’d love to hear from you.