Now that Valentine’s day (V-day) is behind us, it’s the perfect time to reflect on friendships, relationships and the importance of intimacy.
If the thought of meeting new people, spending time with good friends or cozying up with that special someone makes you cringe (or worse), here are some important things to keep in mind:
1. Social isolation and loneliness can have a devastating impact on your health. Studies show that for people over the age of 70, social disconnection can actually shorten your life (Haslam et al. 2015)
2. Staying socially connected can also be a great way to maintain your physical health. Think walking groups, bike riding comrades and bowling buddies – these are examples of activities you can participate in, that give you a chance to chit-chat and get to know others at the same time.
3. Cultivating relationships shouldn’t be a high-stakes endeavor. Low and no-pressure activities like group dating make meeting people who share your interests, fun and easy. Websites like “the meetup” offer a great way to pick and choose the people and activities that appeal to you.
4. Are you the take-charge type? If so, consider taking a leadership role to help organize activities such as social events, trips or advocacy groups. If you’ve got the knack for getting people organized, you can create opportunities to connect with others.
5. If at first you don’t succeed, just try again. Making friends and establishing relationships may not be easy, but it’s well worth it. Don’t give up simply because your first attempt at getting to know someone didn’t work out the way you planned. Continue to try different ways of connecting with people – for example – talking, walking, joining an interest group or helping to organize a campaign.
Remember, social isolation can lead to depression, higher levels of stress and chronic illness -including heart disease (National Seniors Council of Canada, 2014). There are easy steps you can take to widen your social circles and maybe even meet your special someone. Establishing and maintaining social connections not only adds years to your life, but more importantly, adds life to your years.