One great thing about aging is we are finally aware of what really matters, and we can stop the façade we kept up to impress or advance in our worlds. Building our little kingdom doesn’t seem as important as building solid relationships and being “real.”
The quality of our relationships, meaning how much we enjoy the friendships we have, how supported we feel, and how much we trust the ones we open up to, significantly impact our sense of well-being and quality of life. We have all met the fun “old” person and also the cranky one. I think we all agree we want to be remembered as the “fun” one. But there is more to it than being favored in our circles. The quality of our close relationships also impacts our physical health as well.
According to studies, adults over 50 who are well-connected in friendships and family are less likely to abuse prescription drugs, less likely to struggle with insomnia, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. Studies have also shown that healthy, supportive relationships increase positive emotions, reduce anxiety, and foster a feeling of belonging and purpose. Feelings of purpose and belonging cause us to want to take care of ourselves by eating healthier, exercising, and spending time with others in meaningful ways even when they may be difficult people.
Remember the drama in our 30’s? Aging has helped us. We don’t need to compare or figure ourselves out. We can walk boldly into who we have become because of those wretched days. The lines of our boundaries are more straightforward, and we are much more likely to give the benefit of the doubt and encourage openness.
So how do we go about choosing good relationships if we are not surrounded by them already? Start with making a list of those who have made you feel supported, energized, and inspired already. Reach out more often to them. Try emailing, calling, or texting once a week or even making in-person plans. With all its faults, Facebook has made it easy to make friends with those who have common interests. I belong to Warm Up America and have met other people through this group who live near me. It’s a great group of encouragers and gives me new ways of seeing the talents of others. We are all over the U.S., and we donate completed knit and crochet blankets to the needy; I’ve never met a guy from Idaho, but we are becoming great friends with a common cause.
There are also support groups. I belong to a group of writers and another group of Christians; both encourage my work and offer prayers. Volunteering can help us meet people with common interests while we accomplish good for others.
Honesty is always the best policy, and the more honest we are with ourselves and others, the closer we will feel to them. So much to learn, so start where you feel most comfortable. Start with those you already know and build from there.
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