I am the youngest of four. I know, some of you may immediately think I must have been a spoiled little brat. While my siblings may agree with you, I assure you, I was not. Sure, I did my share of tattle-tailing, whining, and poking, but for the most part, I just wanted to be liked. My older sisters were super cool in my mind. They had great hair, great clothes, and great friends. While they didn’t think that of themselves, I was dead sure of it. I hoped to be like them some day.
My brother, however, was the person I wished I was in every way. He was athletic, creative, and dangerous – a real MacGyver. While I could have done without his near-forest-fire experiments, I loved the adventure of being with him. We built a fort that was basically a piece of plywood with 1,000 nails pounded through it loosely hung between two trees. Our strategy was a simple one, if a bear or wild animal attacked we would just jump up and down until the board with a thousand daggers fell on top of it killing it swiftly. Surely a smart plan considering how often we played right below it while our friends sat above. Didn’t seem to matter what we did together, I was a tom boy through and through. I certainly fit the part too with my camo pants and Dorothy Hamill haircut. I cherish the memories of every back yard baseball game, basketball shoot out, or race to the corn stalks and back. I love my brother.
It wasn’t until later in high school and college that I got to know my sisters better. I found out they were just as cool as my brother but in different ways. They could chat incessantly about little to nothing – something my brother and I rarely did. They could listen to my happy and sad stories and relate and give me comfort and support. They could make me laugh so hard that tears ran down my legs. Now, I consider them my very best friends. I know, at the drop of a hat, they would be by my side when needed.
In life sometimes your family members are your best friends and sometimes your best friends become like family. It doesn’t really matter as long as you have someone. Relationships are key to a happy, healthy, long life. According to work by British epidemiologist John Cacioppo and his colleagues, loneliness drives up the cortisol and blood pressure levels that damage the internal organs, causing serious problems to our health. A shocking 23% of Americans say they talk to no one. Strong relationships (face-to-face) and social support reduce your risk of dying more so than quitting smoking, giving up heavy drinking, exercising, and treating hypertension to list a few. Shocking right!
An important distinction…social relationships online don’t count. You actually need to engage with a real live person, in person. So, next time you are about to spend 15 minutes “facebooking” choose to call a friend, schedule a coffee date, or if you are feeling adventurous – talk to a stranger (shutter). Just today there were no spots to sit at the coffee shop so I asked to join a stranger. I found out she had a couple kids that went to UMD, my alma matter, I’m guessing I was just one more degree of separation from finding out our Iron Range connection (I can’t help but bring my home-town chatter into stranger conversations). It was delightful. Give it a try, who knows, you could be the only person they talk to that day, and because of that, you are helping them live longer! For more on the importance of relationships read, The Village Effect by Susan Pinker. Need to put some more intention behind your relationships? Talk to a trumi pro and they can help add some life to your years.