5 Ways Social Support Improves Aging
Aging can be a frustrating and lonely experience in many respects. For many of us, over time our loved ones, kids, friends and family tends to drift farther apart or onto other priorities, and this tends to create a scenario that makes an already unpleasant aging process worse.
Yet, research and anecdotal evidence tends to support the theory that a great social support system and culture can not only make the inevitable and unpleasant process of aging a better experience, it can prolong the inevitable and help us to age more successfully with a higher quality of life. In this article, we’ll break down 5 ways that social support can help us improve the aging process.
1. Committing to Friendship
Friendship and bonding is a key to happiness in life and its importance cannot be understated, however it can often be taken for granted as a constant rather than a discipline or principle to protect. One of the best ways to improve social support is to find people who can commit to being friends and committing to be a great friend as well.
In fact, an article in the journal Social Work, stated “Hierarchical regression analysis showed that commitment to the role of friend is significant in predicting life satisfaction when controlling for background variables, and friendship identity meanings emerged as the strongest predictor—stronger than income or marital status—when predicting well-being.” In other words, be a great friend and have great friends and life gets easier.
2. Social Supports Helps Decrease Stress
Stress is considered by some to be the greatest health issue in America. It is certainly a key indicator of aging over time and it can lead to inflammation in many respects which is a key agent in the aging process. Having a great social support system can help to decrease stress over time and help the aging process.
An article in the journal Psychology and Aging that conducted a study on social support as related to stress in older adults found that “The findings in this study indicate that social support (a) helps to reduce the deleterious effects of stress on emotional disorder primarily by bolstering the self-esteem of older adults and (b) affects psychological well-being only indirectly through self-esteem.”
Having people in your corner who make you feel good about yourself is always a bonus and a huge boost to self-esteem, and that is vital to enjoying life and aging well.
3. Give in Order to Get: Support Those Closest To You
It’s nice to be needed. In fact, so nice that it actually can help us to age better and improve our self-esteem and wellness.
A recent article in Psychological Science stated that “Results from logistic regression analyses indicated that mortality was significantly reduced for individuals who reported providing instrumental support to friends, relatives, and neighbors, and individuals who reported providing emotional support to their spouse.”
The key here is that when you commit to helping others, it releases serotonin and other key responses that reduce stress, improve our mood and ultimately help us to feel and age better.
4. Laughter is the Best Medicine
We’ve all heard the old quote a million times, but laughter truly is a medicinal benefit for us. According to Berk (1998), when we laugh respiratory exchange processes are enhanced, blood pressure is reduced, and the body produces endorphins which enhance our mood and mollify pain.
Spend time with people who make you laugh, laugh often, and laugh hard. These people will improve your quality of life, and help you to age successfully for a rich, full and happy life.
5. A Social Support System Can Help Us Retain Purpose
One of the most important elements of living successfully and especially aging successfully is understanding the purpose, causes or ideals that are most important to us and to live in fulfillment of them.
This is the basis of the great book Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, and his theory of Logos therapy, essentially stating that man can endure any level of pain, discomfort or otherwise if they have a strong sense of purpose.
Oftentimes, ideals can be abstract but the people who are most important to us can be our purpose such as our family or children. A strong social support system continues to give you a reason to live a full life of vigor and zeal to maximize every moment available with those you care about most!
In conclusion, they say you’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. If you spend most of your time with negative influences or with little social support, the quality of life will deteriorate.
However, if you surround yourself with great and loving people who make you laugh and make you happy, the aging process will be a pleasure!
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