By G. A. Finch
This post is the last article, in a series of four, pertaining to salutary habits that contribute to resilience.
Social networks are key to wellbeing. Do you have friends? Do you have a family that is both accessible and supportive? Do you have groups to which you belong and in which you participate? Human beings are social creatures who evolved and survived well because of their social organizing instincts that provided protection, hunting, food gathering and cultivation, division of labor, and trade, among so many other things.
My soon to be 99 year-old mother is a club lady. All of her adult life she has been a joiner of social and civic clubs, has lots of friends, and is devoted to her family. In return, her friends, club members, and family have been devoted to her. She is cheerful, strong and tenacious. She embodies resilience.
I get my “joiner” and “civic” genes from my mother. I guess I am a club guy (no, not the bar kind). I am a member of three men’s clubs: a church one, a social one, and a professional fraternity. I have also sat on several boards and commissions and volunteer a lot.
What I have found is that, like my mother, I get strength and energy from my social networks. The time I spend in my clubs and civic activities uplifts me, gives me energy and relaxes me. If you are socializing or serving others, you do not have much time to brood or feel sorry for yourself. In fact, friendship, family, and civic ties armor you from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (to borrow a phrase from Shakespeare). No matter what the real or imagined slights, setbacks, failures, or mistakes that befall you, they all become much more manageable when you have a strong social network. Your friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family provide the empathy, encouragement, support, and suggestions to propel you through the invariable ups and downs of your life.
Whenever there is a death of a neighbor’s loved one, my neighborhood erupts in an outpouring of emotional and practical support. The bereaved family does not have to cook for a couple of weeks. It is a beautiful thing to see. It is that kind of social network that enhances resilience.
Selective solitude can be extremely satisfying and sometimes necessary. Sustained aloneness without meaningful social ties can be harmful.
Strong social support networks contribute to good health and longevity. Dynamic, effective leaders are social and have extensive networks.
Have you taken stock of your network lately? Do you tend to your nuclear and/or extended family, keep up with your friends, and engage with others in your community? It is never too late to start. A smile, a hello, and a willingness to roll up your sleeves are all you need to tap into the social being you are meant to be.