Adapted from Eric Barkers blog "This Is The Fun Way To A Meaningful Life: 3 Secrets Backed By Research" His book "Barking Up the Wrong Tree " is one of the best research on the power of One-Another. I highly recommend it.
The positive effects of war on mental health has long been documented. How is it that people feel less depressed, less crazy, less violent and less suicidal when something as horrible and life threatening is happening around them? Because war and natural disasters force people to unite together, to help One-Another, and to act as a community. Most of us have seen or experienced it ourselves. People feel better psychologically if they have more involvement with their community.
“When people are actively engaged in a cause their lives have more purpose… with a resulting improvement in mental health”, From: Tribe On Homecoming and Belonging
We need a community to feel good and community is something we are sorely lacking today. Sadly, we often only feel it when forced to. Unfortunately modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.
Many of us live alone, surrounded by strangers rather than family or friends, communicate by text rather than face to face, and hire a service instead of getting the help from One another.
A study at the University of Michigan revealed a dramatic decline in empathy levels among young Americans between 1980 and today, with the steepest drop being in the last ten years. The shift, say researchers, is in part due to more people living alone and spending less time engaged in social and community activities that nurture empathetic sensitivity.
When you feel like you don't belong to a group, health, self-control, and IQ drop. Just “having friends” isn’t enough. You need a community,
Feeling lonely predicts early death as much as major health risk behaviors like smoking (Cacioppo & Patrick, 2008).
Pretty much globally, religious people are happier than the nonreligious. Both are due to being in a community. Denmark is home to the happiest people in the world. 92% of Danes are part of some kind of group, ranging from sports to cultural interests. The interesting thing is that there is little evidence that other private or subjective aspects of religiosity affect life satisfaction independent of attendance and congregational friendship.
Belonging to groups, such as networks of friends, family, clubs, and sport teams improves mental health because groups provide support, help you to feel good about yourself and keep you active. But belonging to many different groups might also help to make you psychologically and physically stronger. People with multiple group memberships cope better when faced with stressful situations such as recovering from stroke and are even more likely to stay cold-free when exposed to the cold virus.
Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, did a meta-analysis of 148 studies and concluded that a lack of social support predicts all causes of death. People with a solid group of friends are 50 percent more likely to survive at any given time than those without one.
So how do you start your own little community? What does it take to form a group of friends and get all those wonderful benefits? Here's what the research says:
1) Regular Meetings
One get-together is not a community; it's a party. If you don't have regular, consistent meetings, the thing is probably going to fall apart and you certainly won't get the bonding, trust and all them good "feelings" that you're wanting.
Two of the biggest boosters to overall well-being are exercise and religious attendance. It's because both give consistent, scheduled benefits: We have set work hours. Hair appointments get scheduled. But often when it comes to relationships and community that are so worthwhile, we wing it.
One study shows seeing friends and family regularly is the equivalent to the happiness of making about $100,000 more a year. So make a plan. Set a schedule. Once a week, once a month, whatever. But consistency is key.
2) You want people who you admire and make you feel good.
Research shows that old people are happier and mellower because they've deliberately pruned their social circles over the years of friends or acquaintances who might bring them down. Often times we include people because we "should" and this can lead to problems. Spending time with fake friends — or “frenemies” — can be worse than spending time with real enemies. An important part of One-Another is knowing who to Un-Another
"Friends that we feel ambivalently about raise our blood pressure more — cause more anxiety and stress — than people we actively dislike."
You want to have people in the clan who you admire. People you aspire to be like. Because you are going to become similar to the people around you -- like it or not. When you take a job take a long look at the people you’re going to be working with — because the odds are you’re going to become like them, they are not going to become like you.
The Longevity Project, which studied over 1000 people from youth to death had this to say: The groups you associate with often determine the type of person you become. For people who want improved health, association with other healthy people is usually the strongest and most direct path of change.
3) Struggle, Help, and Celebrate
So what's your group gonna do?
Do something you all enjoy and to accelerate the bonding process, make it something with a touch of struggle to it. (sports, games, volunteer work, or building something, etc.)
Anthropologist Dimitris Xygalatas found that groups that went through “high-ordeals” bonded far more than those that went through “low-ordeals.” Struggling together made people closer. This is why fraternities haze. Why soldiers feel like they are kin. People need a place where others will accept and agonize with them over deep issues.
Surrounding yourself with people you admire and who are helping One-Another succeed is gonna rub off on you. This will heighten your desire to give back and reciprocate by finding even more ways to bring value to their lives.
People who live the longest aren't the ones who receive the most help -- they're the people who give the most help. Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising, and caring for others, tended to live to old age.
After you struggle and have given and received help, celebrate your successes. Sharing our achievements with others and celebrating boosts well-being: Sharing successes and accomplishments with others has been shown to be associated with elevated pleasant emotions and well-being. So, when you or your spouse or cousin or best friend wins an honor, congratulate him or her (and yourself) and celebrate.
You can build a great group by:
- Consistent get-togethers Leaving happiness to chance is an excellent way to be unhappy.
- Recruit people you like and people you look up to
- Struggle, Help, and Celebrate Build or make something, engage in friendly competition, help each other, and when you succeed, party like rockstars.