A Great Excuse to Spend Time with Friends & Family
I had a few minutes to chat with a friend who just came back from a month in Africa staying with families and volunteering at orphanages. She described how these people lived in mud huts with mud floors and had no electricity. The kids played in the dirt and had to pay if they wanted to go to school. The situation sounded very rough to me! Yet something she said has really stuck with me. She said that these people were generally very happy, and she has been trying to figure out how she can bring that back to the States. Interesting! Her struggle was not about how to HELP them, but how can we LEARN from them. With all of our technology, conveniences and money, what could there possibly be for us to discover from people living in under-developed countries? Yet, data indicates that depression is more prevalent in high-income countries than low or middle-income countries. In fact, the U.S. and France had the highest rates of depression compared to the other 16 countries in the study.
Of course there are many theories on why this is so, but there is one that resonates the most with me. We are very social creatures and our physical and emotional wellbeing depends on our social support and interactions, but highly-developed countries tend to place a greater value on independence and have fewer interconnected communities. Research suggests that strong social networks are dropping at an alarming rate, with Americans stating they had 3 close friends in 1985 and by 2004 this number had dropped to one, with 25% of Americans saying that they have no one to confide in. Brene Brown, Professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work who specializes in social connection commented, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to.” Yet sometimes our lives can seem too busy to have the time to connect with friends and family.
What can you do to invest in your social connections (and wellbeing)?
Tina Hallis, Ph.D., is a professional speaker and consultant for The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping people and organizations fulfill their true potential using strategies from the science of Positive Psychology.