There are all sorts of things which are said to contribute to a healthy sense of well-being, balance, and satisfaction in life over 50.
Fulfilling work is certainly one of these things. Optimal overall health, and good nutrition play important roles too. But, one of the things that is most consistently regarded as essential is maintaining a healthy social network.
Some of us are naturally less social and more introverted than others. And various situations in life – including even just getting older, or moving away for work – can mean that we are less socially engaged than we would ideally like to be.
All the same, here are some reasons why it’s important to maintain a real social network in life.
1. Some degree of social interaction is important for maintaining emotional balance
Humans are, when all is said and done, social creatures. And as a matter of fact, surveys done on people near the end of their lives reveal that failing to maintain social connections was ranked among the top regrets those individuals experienced.
Some degree of social interaction is important in order to maintain proper emotional balance. This is more true for highly extroverted people, but it’s even true to some extent for the very introverted, too.
Whether “social interaction” means having a romantic partner, or trusted relatives to interact with on a regular basis, or whether it means parting with friends day after day, a complete lack of human contact will by no means leave you feeling your best and most optimistic.
Social Networks provide support
2. Our social networks can help to give us support and insight when we are dealing with difficult situations
From time to time, we all find ourselves dealing with stressful situations in life that we would much rather avoid, and that which can take a severe toll on our overall well-being.
In those cases, it is our social networks that will often support us and offer us insight when we need it most.
In fact, many communities and social networks exist specifically in order to help people in certain negative situations deal with their particular troubles, and gain a sense of perspective on them.
The Shift MS Forum, for example, is one such intentional web-based community, focused on offering support to sufferers of MS.
You might think that you are the toughest individual on the face of the earth – but if you try and shoulder all your problems alone, without any support network at all, the consequences are likely to be quite negative.
3. Social interaction can keep us grounded, and give us a sense of perspective
One of the great things about social interaction, specifically with a trusted and respected network of friends, relatives, and loved ones, is that it can keep us grounded, and can give us a sense of perspective when we might otherwise be tempted to go completely off into the wild.
Of course, there is an important caveat to this point. If you’re interacting with a dysfunctional or pathological social group, they can end up reinforcing your negative viewpoints and skewed perspectives instead of providing a counterbalance.
As a general, though, social interaction with other people can help us to test our ideas, assumptions, and plans, and to gain an essential sense of perspective and balance.