Sounds a little hard core, eh? Hear me out…
My last blog post talked about our social environment and the positive or negative influences that we face. The two professors responsible for this research about the power of our social networks made clear is that our abilities to resist negative influences and to gain positive ones aren’t without limits. (Btw, Christakis and Fowler are the two professors with this fascinating work. You can follow them @connected_book on Twitter.)
So…what does that mean, exactly? Well, it means there might be times when saying “buh-bye” to certain friends or social contacts is the healthier choice. What’s that you say? #yesshesaidthat…especially if you are challenged with an addiction, OR…if you know that a certain relationship is having a pronounced negative effect on your health, happiness or personal growth.
In situations like those, cutting loose of heavy anchors and freeing yourself to develop healthier circles of support may be an important step in staying true to your own positive trajectory. (Beam me up, Scotty!)
In most cases, however, the positive or negative impact of our social relationships isn’t quite so cut and dried. I’m a pizza lover—oh, please don’t ditch me! But…maybe you should for a while if being with me is a trigger for unhealthy actions, you know? You may also have social contacts you don’t really choose — like sedentary coworkers or negative-minded extended family and in-laws.
While some in your circle may pose a challenge to your health intentions, such less-than-perfect social contacts aren’t cause to be concerned. You see, Christakis and Fowler believe that the broader and more varied your social network, the greater its potential benefits for both health and happiness. The reason is that although we tend to attribute our happiness to our closest, most significant relationships, research shows that it’s also fed by regular exposure to small moments of pleasure, novelty and joy — things we stand a better chance of experiencing when we are socially connected and supported by more than just one or two other individuals.
Wow, that’s huge. Small moments of pleasure. Novelty. Joy.
What’s a girl (or guy) to do? Work on these three skills:
- Learn to recognize when your behavior is being negatively shaped. (a journal can help here)
- Develop the ability to deliberately make better choices under pressure.
- Engage in opportunities to gently nudge your network in healthier directions.
This way, you can achieve a Win/Win: Reap the fullest possible benefits of your social network AND avoid its pitfalls. And perhaps I should add a “4th” skill: identify what brings you joy and make sure you build those experiences into your days and weeks. Doing these four things require awareness, intention, and commitment for a healthy life. Remember, “some” day is today. And tomorrow always provides a second chance.
Until next time, live fit, choose health. And be happy.