Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. — Jane Howard
Close family and friends give us many gifts. They appreciate us, they celebrate with us, they laugh with us, they cry with us. They share their knowledge and talent and resources. And we give them those gifts in return. Sharing our lives is a foundation for happiness; we all need family and friends and community.
A recent study reported in CNN magazine points out that people’s happiness quotient goes up significantly (up to 25%!) if they have a close friend that lives nearby, a close sibling that lives nearby, a neighbor that they are friends with, and even if a friend of a friend lives nearby. What’s more, happiness ripples through social networks. If we have friends who are happy people, it boosts our own feelings of happiness and contentment.
For each of us, family, friends and community may be different. Some of us may have a large, extended family, or one close sibling, or a favorite aunt, or a family that we’ve adopted. Some of us may have a few close friends, or we may be social butterflies. Some of us find community in the church we go to, or we are friends with some of the parents at our child’s school, or we belong to a jogging group or a book club.
George Burns, the American actor and comedian, famously said “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” Well, no one said families are perfect, (or for that matter, roommates, or friends) but we’re social creatures and we strive to have good relationships. And when we do? Our happiness quotient goes up!
Then there’s the concept of community at work. Workplace studies that focus on employee engagement and retention say that people want to have “a community at work”. If you spend seven or eight hours of every day at your workplace, you want to feel a sense of belonging and connection.
I once worked in a workplace where the secretary was the ultimate social convener. She organized Halloween parties, Valentine’s parties, birthday parties, picnic parties. We were a happy department and the other departments gravitated toward our end of the office.
Friends and family and community are there for us in bad times as well as good times, the times when we’re sad or disappointed or grieving. We share out emotions and it helps us to recover sooner, to not get stuck, to make our way back to happiness.
Friends and family and community are also there for us when we celebrate, whether it’s a graduation or a wedding or a birth or a raise or a retirement or some small personal victory. Celebrations bring people closer together and spread happiness.
If this is an area lacking in your life, there are some easy concrete steps you can take to add community to your life:
- Go to church. This is one of the best places to find community.
- Join a club (book club, knitting club, spelunking club)
- Go to the group classes at the gym.
- Reconnect with old friends by making 1 hour per week a “phone call” hour where you just talk to friends on the phone.
Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute
with love, grace and gratitude.”
– Productivity consultant Denis Waitley
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