Our society is Becoming lonelier than before
In a contemporary world- where there have been increased rates of suicide, depression, and stress – young people are confessing that they have no friends. They have no close connections except the ones they are forced to have- with parents and siblings. They have no people to hang out with. They have no one to rely on in difficult times.
In every five people, three of them confess that they have very few close friends. One in every five people will confess that they have no close friends at all.
Some are blaming their introversion personalities while others are pointing fingers at their poor social skills.
While these may be some of the reasons, they are only trying to deviate away from the main reason- we do not realize the impact of positive, high quality, and profound relationships. Or rather the impacts of isolation and loneliness are yet to hit us hardest.
This is a close call!
The influence of social relationships on the risk of death is comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality such as smoking and alcohol consumption and exceeds the influence of other risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity.
In simpler terms, you are more likely to die from isolation and loneliness than smoking, alcohol consumption, or obesity.
Isolation and loneliness are some of the leading causes of suicide, stress, depression, drug and substance abuse, and immoral behavior among teenagers.
The dire repercussions of having a few or no close friends hit hardest in old age. 11% of people aged above 75 have no close friends at all. Loneliness and isolation are the main contributors to stress and depression for people above 65 years of age.
As we grow old, key risks for loneliness and isolation significantly affect us. These include relationship breakdowns, poor work-life balance, children leaving the family home, retirement, and bereavement. We tend to be faced with longer working hours, we get too focused on our careers that we forget to invest in quality relationships.
Why Relationships Matter
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow placed love and belongingness needs third in his level of human needs. This came after physiological needs such as food, water, warmth, rest, and security. With the first two readily available in the 21st century, people are missing out on the third level of human needs.
“the brain is a social organ, and our relationships with one another are not a luxury but an essential nutrient for our survival”Daniel Siegel
High-Quality Relationships = High-Quality Life
Show me the quality of your relationships and I will show you the quality of your life.
We tend to think that happiness and wealth come from wealth and fame but it primarily comes from our relationships. Everything in life comes down to people and relationships. The world is designed in such a way that everything passes through people. Friendships, acts of goodwill, love, recognition, acceptance are all granted by people.
People who are more socially connected to family, friends, and their community are happier, healthier, live longer, and experience fewer mental health problems.
The Barriers We are up against
In recent years, there has been a reduction in the number of children in each family. Traditional communities like churches and extended families have weakened. Family and marital relationships have changed as a result of increased levels of divorce. The close connections that families and communities provided no longer exist.
The modern world is depending more on social media and other online platforms to build communities. Despite the increased social media use, there is no improvement in the levels of contact we have with our friends and family.
Creating and maintaining healthy relationships on the internet has proven difficult due to the poor social skills and unhealthy communications that are experienced online.
Online conversations cannot replace face-to-face conversations. Face-to-face conversations involve the release of neurochemicals that promote the well-being of the parties involved.
Talking to someone face to face triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin which promotes feelings of attachments and trust.
In a technologically advanced world, there are many ways to dodge the teargas canisters of friendship being thrown to us by life. We are too attached to our gadgets that we have little or no time to connect with others. Just check at any place where young people are gathered and you will realize how first they hide in their phones during breaks.
People even pretend to be on their phones so that they do not make contact with familiar faces during social gatherings.
A Negative Mindset
We are finding it uncomfortable to introduce ourselves to others. We often make the mistake of adopting the mindset of “I hope they like me,” instead of, “I hope I like them.”
No one wants to make contact first, text, or keep in touch. We are all waiting for other people to call us, text us and keep in touch with us while we make zero deliberate efforts. Unfortunately, none of this is happening.
We are not checking on our friends just because they do not check on us. It’s no wonder that graveyards see more flowers than hospital beds!
In the words of Martin Luther King Junior, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”
The Paradox Of Relationships
The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. It is the foundation of all other relationships that we have. It is, however, the hardest relationship to cultivate.
David Whyte, in his book- ‘The Three Marriages’ of work, self, and relationship says it best,
“neglecting this internal marriage, we can easily make ourselves a hostage to the externals of work and the demands of relationship. We find ourselves unable to move in these outer marriages because we have no inner foundation from which to step out with a firm persuasion.
It is as if, absent a loving relationship with this inner representation of our self, we fling ourselves in all directions in our outer lives, looking for love in all the wrong places.”
How Do We Relate with Ourselves?
The most important conversation is the one you have with yourself. It is said that if we talked to our friends the same way we talk to ourselves, we would have no friends. We think we are not enough while others are intimidated by our potential. We have to stop selling ourselves short and realize that the heaviest chains are the ones we put around ourselves.
Negative self- assumptions are like rust. It’s going to take over you in all aspects. When it reaches your weak point, you will break. Keep shining with the best thoughts about yourself as you are the best critic of yourself.
Investing in Relationships
While we acknowledge that we need to work out to keep our bodies fit and that we need to invest our money to achieve financial freedom, we do not realize that it requires hard work to build relationships.
Our approach to building relationships is passive.
Relationships Compound Over Time
The relationships we create while young determine our future mental health and well-being. Young people have several avenues to foster amazing relationships.
Networks and good relationships compound the same way as financial investments. Play long-term games with long-term people. When you find the right people to work with, invest deeply in them.
The Right Way To Build Relationships
While many people appreciate the power of having small circles- cultivating deep, high-quality relationships, you cannot overlook the power of shallow acquaintances. You want to build an army that is deep and wide. You have to prioritize both depth and width. Cultivate deep relationships but also learn to appreciate the power of weak ties.
Moreover, all friendships start somewhere shallow. You don’t need a certain number of friends, just a number of friends you can be certain of.
Add Value to People’s Lives
Giving is always greater than receiving. Focus on what you can do for others, not what they can do for you.
Keeping Old Friends is Better Than Creating New Ones
Transformational relationships take time to build and compound. When someone knows you for long enough, you share so many memories. Your bond is way much stronger. Just check at some of the friendships you have maintained since childhood and you will realize the rich memories you have together.
Create more time to connect with friends and family
Friends and family do not deserve the little time that is leftover in your schedule. You have to create more time to meet up with friends and family.
Relationships are like subscriptions. You either cancel them or renew them. Create time to renew your relationships and reinvent yourselves, otherwise, you will end up canceling them unintentionally.
When connecting with friends and family, try to keep your phone away and give your partner all your attention. This onset the release of the hormone oxytocin which is responsible for creating trust and emotional bonds between people.
90% of creating long-lasting relationships is keeping in touch. If you don’t, the friendship fades away and you become strangers without your realization.
Building long-lasting relationships is hard. Sometimes you have to buy people birthday presents even though you don’t receive any yourself. You have to attend weddings, baby showers, and graduation ceremonies of other people. You have to make time to call, meet and catch up with old friends. It requires hard work.
The dark side Of Friendships
The one benefit of belonging to any community or having similar ideas or interests with other people is that it helps us feel connected, supported and gives us a sense of belonging. No one wants to be lonely. Psychology has shown that the human species tends to identify itself in groups. And when we are in groups or a community, we tend to follow the average belief or doings of that community.
This is where bad friendships ruin people. People are afraid of standing by themselves and they end up standing with the wrong people. Being lonely is way better than being with the wrong people.