More from The Happiness Advantage – social connections
What is the number predictor of overall happiness and life satisfaction? Not intelligence. Not wealth. Not relative health and fitness. Neither race, gender, religion (or lack thereof) nor geographic location account for happiness as much as positive social connections do. That’s right – your relationships account for your happiness more than any other single factor. It seems our brains are wired for social connections and support. Of course it makes sense that a happy marriage or strong ties to parents and children would have a tremendous impact on how we feel. And it’s no surprise that if we get along well with our co-workers it makes for a happier workplace. But research shows that even brief, pleasant contact with people – the clerk at the convenience store, the barista at the coffee shop, the down-the-street neighbor we just wave to on our morning walk – all of these have the effect of bolstering our sense of well-being. Here’s the thing, though – most of us, when under stress, under a deadline, in crisis – we tend to isolate, to withdraw. It may be in an effort to conserve our energy to devote to the cause, whatever it may be. Or it may be an idea of not wanting to burden those around us with our own private anguish. Or may we’re too embarrassed to admit we’re in some kind of trouble. That withdrawal and isolation is the very worst thing we can do at such times. It doesn’t mean we have to call up all of our friends, neighbors, acquaintances and connections to confess all or whine and complain. What is helpful is just to reach out, take a break with friends, choose one or two trusted confidantes to hear your struggles. Take someone’s hand, ask for a hug, thank people for being in your life. And get this! It’s reciprocal! When you let others support you, they get something out of the contact, too!