Weekly Column: Aspire Unplugged, by Cheryl Patterson
In spite of the pride that many of us feel at the thought of our independence, we’re social creatures that need each other to thrive.
Researchers have likened loneliness to hunger, thirst, or pain, in addition to associating it with health problems such as diminished immunity, cardiovascular risk, the progression of Alzheimer’s, obesity, alcoholism and depression.
In contrast, support from others can help us solve problems, cope better with hardship and have a sense of control over our life circumstances.
The Canadian Mental Health Association indicates, “One of the greatest benefits of social support is that it helps people deal with stress. Having someone to talk to reduces stress and protects you from the physical damage it causes such as high blood pressure, ulcers, migraines, anxiety attacks and depression.”
There are different ways we can feel supported.
As friends and family members, we can provide each other with emotional support by helping to boost each other’s moods, encourage confidence, self-esteem and a sense of belonging.
We can also turn to our communities which provide needed health and social services, along with events that encourage a sense of belonging.
Statistics Canada indicates, “Nearly two-thirds of those who felt a very strong or somewhat strong sense of community belonging reported excellent or very good general health. In contrast, only half of those with a very weak sense of belonging view their general health as favourable as those with a strong sense of community belonging.”
Personally, when the multiple losses of family members – my primary support system – started to permeate my life, when my daughter was a preschooler, my salvage was community playgroups. In addition to being a good social outlet for my daughter, it helped me too – got me out of the house, took my mind off the stressors, gave me an outlet for communicating and provided a connection with other moms going through some of the same daily parenting experiences that I was. So, I didn’t feel so alone with everything.
This, coming from one of those people that prides herself on her independence!
So, as we set goals for the New Year for things like diet, exercise and sleep, let’s not forget that our well being is also “solidly anchored in the threads of connections to others” ( J. T. Cacioppo, et al. “Happiness and the invisible threads of Social Connection,” 2008).