Creating Your Communities of Care for Happiness and Well-Being

awesome aging awesome at any age emotional intelligence - personal relationships emotional intelligence - self actualization fullfillment after 60 Aug 05, 2022

What steps are you taking to make way for happiness? How are you showing up for your BEST self? Are you easing into a more active social life? Are you uneasy about increased contact? Are you concerned about missing out (FOMO)?

If you’re anything like me, your approach might look like the emergence of the Munchkins after the house fell on the Wicked Witch of the East. When I think of scurrying back for cover, I recall the importance of creating and nurturing communities of care.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development tracked 724 men over 75 years, asking about their work, home lives, and health. Two groups of men—sophomores at Harvard and boys from the Southside of Boston—were interviewed and tested. The three BIG lessons were:

  1. The impact of isolation and loneliness is toxic to our happiness and well-being. Social connections are critical. Our bonds are strongest between individuals, rather than with small groups (families or teams) or villages (tribes or companies).
  2. Quality matters! Not the quantity! The quality of relationships is enduring. The study found that the people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the most satisfied in their 80s.
  3. Good relationships protect our bodies as well as our brains. People in strong, trusting relationships are the healthiest in their 80s.

Women understand these lessons instinctively (hardwired) and intuitively (feeling). The findings of this study tracking the male experience are validated by our experience as well. We know that our network of women friends is a valuable asset at any phase of life and any age. Sounds like a good plan for being awesome at any age.

What does this mean today - in our 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond? Waiting for happiness to happen is never going to help in finding fulfillment or self-actualization. There is no house falling from the sky that will magically take all our fear and sadness away. The best course of action is to - "take action". Action does not need to be conventional like signing up for conferences and events that provide contact with the masses. Be open to opportunities to review the quality of your interpersonal relationships. Continue to hone your social skills across the generations and focus on building strong bonds rather than collecting friends.

Share Laughter

As you ease into happiness, gradually replace screen time with people time. Practise your intention of nurturing mutually satisfying relationships by sharing laughter. If you are an introvert and beautifully reserved in conversation, sharing laughter can ease your social tension and help you in enjoying your relationships.

Here’s a simple exercise from The Greater Good Science Center2 to get you started.

  1. At the end of the day, list the three funniest things you saw, heard, or did that day.
  2. Describe your feelings about the events: How did it make you feel? What emotions were triggered?
  3. Explore the circumstances of events: Why was this event funny? Why did this funny event occur?
  4. Repeat this each day for a week. Give yourself 10 minutes of emotional self-care every day to write out as much detail as possible.

Spread the joy by asking someone to share laughter. Approach a trusted friend and exchange your three funny things. Share via email, text, or read it out over the phone or video call. Then work your way toward an in-person exchange when and as you both feel comfortable.

When we practise laughing at the absurdities of our daily life (and life is so absurd now), we create an opportunity to share different perspectives (safely) and practise gratitude. By sharing perspectives, gratitude, and laughter with others, we create stronger relationships. We make way for happiness.

Sharing laughter with younger and older generations is a great way to bridge generational gaps and build bonds. We are laughing with; not at. We are showing up for them and for ourselves.

How do you create communities of care? How do you share laughter?

Regular garden dates and dining alfresco with two close friends over the past 3 years has been saving grace for weekly fun and laughter – roaring laughter that keeps the neighbours thinking about our sanity. We have been able to share our different perspectives and opinions safely and respectfully which has strengthened our bonds. When weather has been frosty, we have recreated the alfresco experience with Zoom Brunch.

References and Resources:

  1. Harvard Study of Adult Development - 2nd Generation Study
  2. The Greater Good Science Center - Three Funny Things. Get happier by seeing the humour in life.

What is a "Community of Care"? The concept of Communities of Care promotes mental health and well-being through community-level prevention solutions, such as fostering social connections, improving the built environment, and increasing access to economic opportunity. (Source: Google Search)

For references and resources connecting Interpersonal Relationships with Happiness, invest in your own copy of The EQ Edge - Emotional Intelligence and Your Success, Steven J. Stein, PH.D. and Howard E. Book M.D.

Your Next Steps:

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