In life, one of our most valuable assets is our social network. A strong social network not only fulfills and enriches our lives, but it fuels health and success in many different areas. When we’re faced with a challenge or things just get busy, it’s so easy to neglect those closest to us. But research shows how isolating ourselves from family and friends leads to almost certain failure.
I know for me, when things get busy at work, it can be so easy to hunker down and hide away in my office all day. My tendency is to spend less time with my family, be quick to turn down meeting a friend for lunch, or just not take the time to get to know new people.
While prioritizing and focusing are important, the most successful among us still continue to invest in their relationships rather than restrain them, especially during challenging times.
Here are five reasons you should invest your social network – especially during challenging times:
1. Reduced stress - Psychologist Shawn Achor explains how we’ve been created in such a way that when we have a positive social interaction, our oxytocin level increases and our cortisol level decreases. The difference in the levels of these hormones reduces stress and anxiety, and improves our focus and concentration.
Like I mentioned, it can be easy for me to quarantine myself in my office if I’m busy at work. This inevitably leads to me getting stressed, feeling overwhelmed, and becoming much less effective in what I’m doing. It’s on the days that I take the time to preserve the morning walk with my wife or do something special with my two-year old son that I can keep a level head and return to work focused and energized.
2. Better health - In his book, Loneliness, John Cacioppo tells of a study were it was found that if people had emotional support after a heart attack, they were three times more likely to survive. In a similar study, it was found that a breast cancer support group doubled a woman’s life expectancy after surgery.
On the other hand, Cacioppo explains that people with a lack of a strong social network are two to three times more likely to suffer from depression, and generally have poorer health. And he said the lack of a social network can be just as deadly as having a disease.
3. Better creativity - Social interaction fuels creatively. Often seeing things from another’s perspective and hearing their ideas on a problem can lead to a breakthrough. This is especially important when we are in the middle of a tough time.
Recently, after telling a friend of mine how things were going with our music school, he asked if I had ever considered offering instrument rentals. He explained how he thought it could fit in well with some of our other projects and be another revenue stream. I thought it was a great idea and implemented it with success a few weeks later!
4. More opportunities - So many opportunities in life come from the connections we have. This ranges from job opportunities to finding a great babysitter. It makes sense, the more people we talk to, the more opportunities we will hear about.
I have a friend who buys and sells diesel trucks. He frequented the bank repo auctions often enough that he got to know some of the people from one of the banks. Because the bank knew and trusted him, they now offer him many of the trucks ahead of time before they ever get to the auction floor. He’s able to get even better deals, and he’s making things easier for both the bank and himself. This would have never happened without that social connection.
5. Increased happiness - In a study appropriately called Very Happy People, Ed Diener and Martin Seligman searched for common characteristics among the happiest 10% of people. It wasn’t that they were all financially independent, or physically in shape, or extra spiritual. The common characteristic among the happiest people was their strong social network.
Claudia travelled with a service organization after high school for a little over a year. Even though she didn’t have much money at the time and was in some areas of the world experiencing great turmoil, she’ll tell you that was one of her most fulfilling and happiest times of her life because of the close relationships she developed with her team.
Next time we’re up against a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, experiencing a devastating loss, or just in the middle of a big project at work, let’s continue in invest in our social network. If we do this, we can still have balance, fulfillment, and joy, even in the most stressful times.
Question: When is the last time you experienced one of these 5 reasons we should invest in our social network?
Photo Credit: nicola.albertini via Compfight cc