Life potentials Social Connections and Happiness

People with few social ties are two to three times more likely to suffer from major depression than people with strong social bonds

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The Benefits of Social Support for happiness 

We humans are social creatures. People with more supportive families and friends are generally happier and more successful in life. We thrive in supportive environments and we need other human beings to reaffirm our existence. 

Several studies have proven that being in supportive relationships contributes to our psychological well-being. It benefits us in the following ways:

  • Gives us a sense of belonging: No one wants to be an outcast. We thrive when we are accepted. Being accepted into a group and spending time with people helps keep loneliness at bay. We need to feel that we’re not alone.
  • Gives us a feeling of self-worth: Being accepted and called a friend, reinforces the conviction that you are a good person with value.
  • Gives us a feeling of security: A supportive social network is a source of advice, guidance and motivation. We feel comfort in knowing that if we ever need assistance, there are people who will come to our aid.

Facts about social support and happiness 

  • In one study of 1400 students in Harvard, called Very Happy People, results showed that there was a 0.7 correlation between social support and happiness. Higher than the connection between smoking and cancer. 
  • Marriage is a cause of happiness when you get support from your partner. 
  • Research by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler suggests that happiness, along with other behaviors is contagious. If you belong to a social network that has a general attitude of positivity, it will rub off on you. It is true that the company we keep influences our moods and behaviors. 
  • People who have one or more close friendships tend to be happier. 
  • People with few social ties are 2 to 3 times more likely to suffer from depression, as compared to those with stronger social bonds. 
  • People with strong and healthy relationships are less likely to feel stressed by challenging situations.

The Quality of your Social Network 

Social network is about the number of people you interact with. You can count your social media friends to this group. But a social network is not the same as social support.

Social Support has more to do with the quality of your friends. If we want to be happy, building stronger ties should be one of our priorities. We need to cultivate relationships that go deeper than just a simple Hi and Hello. How many of your friends can you really rely on? Is there anyone you can turn to when you have problems? Someone who has your well-being and happiness in mind? A source of inspiration and hope?

In this advanced age of communication, even with the means to connect to each other, it seems that we are losing our ability to establish deep and meaningful relationships with people. 

The Quality of our Social Network is Declining

In 1985, an American survey suggested that people have an average of 3 close friends. By the year 2006, it dropped to 2. 25% of the study group couldn’t name one close friend that they can rely on without doubt. It is no wonder that the World Health Organization reports 350 million cases of depression worldwide. 

We are more connected now, but the quality of our connections are deteriorating.

The Kinds of Support You Need to be Happy 

According to sociologist James Michigan, a deep and meaningful relationship provides us with one or all of the following:

  • Emotional Support – You need to be assured that you have people in your corner. These people help nurture you and keep you moving forward. It involves love, trust, care, intimacy, affection and encouragement. 
  • Tangible Support – Are people you can call on for help on things like financial assistance, babysitting the kids so you can watch a movie, or going with you to the dentist or doctor. It cover 
  • Appraisal Support – The people who love you enough to give you constructive and honest feedback about yourself. This type of support cannot be expected from mere acquaintances. It can only come from people who know you very well. 
  • Informational Support – These are professional acquaintances such as lawyers, mental health professionals, accountants, doctors, clergy and more. They can share their expertise with you when you need it and help you solve problems. 
  • Companionship Support – Activity friends who makes us feel socially accepted. They could be your reading group or church group or any other group of people you interact with socially.

Normally in our lives, we get a certain type of support from different people. That’s alright, as long as you have someone you can turn to. These people form your social support group. Their presence is something that you should value and appreciate. They play a big role in making you a happier and well-rounded person.

Have you nurtured an adequate support system in your life? It’s never too late to start.

References

  1. The Mayo Clinic: Social Support: Tap this tool to beat stress
  2. Wikipedia: Social Support
  3. CNN: Is Happiness the Secret of Success?
  4. World Health Organization: Depression

The Happiness Advantage

Read more about how social support is important for your happiness and well-being in the book “The Happiness Advantage” by Harvard graduate Shawn Achor. You can also read about other factors vital for a good and happy life.


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