seniors talking on patio

By Peggy Qualls, Community Relations Manager —

Whether you’ve heard it from Carol King since the 1970s, or more recently as the opening soundtrack of Toy Story, the message is clear: “You’ve Got a Friend” is something we ALL need, no matter how young or old we are. Human beings are social animals and our connections with other people contribute to our overall sense of security and self-esteem. It is well-established that social ties can facilitate overall well-being, recovery from acute illness and self-management of chronic conditions.

The University of Minnesota says the research is clear: personal relationships are a vital component that contributes to longevity, good health and happiness. Furthermore, there is also compelling evidence that the lack of social connections — loneliness and isolation — are correlated with significant health risks on par with obesity, cigarette smoking and high blood pressure. Decades of research supports the idea that a lack of relationships can cause multiple problems with physical, emotional, and spiritual health. The stunning conclusion reached in this report? The research is clear and devastating: Isolation is fatal, but strong relationships provide a buffer against stress that can provide strength during tough times.

Take Inventory

Perhaps as we begin a new year, this is a good time to review your own health and well-being by examining your current social connections. Take a moment for reflection, for a personal inventory of the important people in your life and consider how well you are relating to them today. The University of Minnesota provides a free online test that just takes a few seconds to complete. It can help you discern how you are doing today so you can determine where you are already making good choices, and where you might be able to improve.

What are some tips to create stronger relationship connections?

  • Seek to be non-judgmental
  • Listen deeply to the other person, seeking first to understand what they are telling you (rather than formulating what you want to tell them)
  • Resolve conflicts as soon as practical
  • Communicate your feelings positively, without casting blame, using statements such as “I feel…”
  • Practice forgiveness
  • Express gratitude
  • Stay in touch, keep the connection open and alive

The songwriters are spot-on: in order to have a friend, you need to be a friend… and “you’ve got troubles, I’ve got them too”… but “winter, spring, summer or fall all you have to do is call.”


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