Are New Friends Worth the Energy Output Required?

I hear from a lot of women who feel defeated in their friendship search, or simply feel like it cannot be a priority in their lives right now.  Many mistakenly think that friendship is the thing to cut when their lives get busy, express feeling guilty for asking their husbands to watch the kids so they can go spend time with a girlfriend, or conclude that since friendships are not happening naturally in their lives that they somehow just need to learn to live without a circle of friends. Maybe you’ve been there before? Maybe you’re there now?

Today I just wanted to poke my head in your inbox with a bit of a reminder about that pay-off.  You know the risks.  You know the difficulty.  You know the challenges.  You know the excuses to say no and give up.  You know how weary you feel.  Give me a moment to remind you what you’re investing in!

Energy Output: The Investment can be Exhausting

It’s a paradox that the actions that take energy also tend to reward us with the most energy. In many life moments, higher investments lead to higher pay-offs.

I mean, the very act of going to the gym is tiring for the vast majority of us, but the pay-off is, ironically, more energy. Most of us don’t sit at work feeling fulfilled by the daily tasks and mountains of emails, but the sum total of that output seems to create a sense of achievement and meaning.  I know just on a recreation level that it would be easier and more comfortable to sit on my couch tonight watching TV, but that if I attend to my women’s business group, I’ll actually come home more rejuvenated than any show could provide. I’ve learned that most things in life aren’t the easiest default option, but they do tend to be worth the investment.  And friendship is simply one of those things– less meaningful in the beginning and a greater source of energy output, but the payoff is exponential.

Energy Input: The Payoff can be Exponential

Gallup’s latest research revealed in the book, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements

You feeling good about your social circle is the #2 most important factor to your overall wellbeing.

shows that there are five universal, interconnected elements that together reveal your overall well-being.  Apparently, liking what you do every day (career wellbeing) is the most significant factor to your overall health and happiness, but guess what number 2 is? Yep, social wellbeing, also known as “Do you like who you’re doing life with?”

While you have undoubtedly heard me quote all kinds of research about how important your circle of friends is to your life, the research just continues to inspire!

  • You’re Influenced by Entire Network. Our wellbeing is impacted by our entire social network. You are 6% more likely to be happy if your friend’s friend’s friend–count them, three degrees removed!– is happy. The reverse is just as true.
  • Friends Impact More Than money. Compare the above 6% increase to the 2% increase in happiness if your annual income goes up $10,000! “This led the study’s authors to conclude that that the wellbeing of friends and relatives is a more effective predictor of happiness than earning more money.”
  • Your Health Prevention is at Stake. People with few social connections are at twice the risk of dying from heart disease or of catching a common cold (even though they’re arguably exposed to more germs!)
  • Proximity Matters. A friend who lives within a mile will have way more positive influence on your wellbeing than friends across the country. (Why GFC advocates making local friends even though it’s not as easy as picking up the phone to talk to your BFF in your hometown! It’s worth it!)
  • Friendships Especially Important in Aging Well. One study showed that in adults over the age of 50, that their memories declined at half the rate if they were socially active compared to those who were least social.
  • You Need More than One BFF! Every additional close friendship adds to your wellbeing. “Our research has found that people who have at least three or four very close friendships are healthier, have higher wellbeing, and are more engaged in their jobs.”
  • The More Time Invested, the Happier You Are:
    Every hour of daily social interaction increases your happiness by 10%!

    The data shows that to have a thriving day you need six hours of daily social time!  Six hours?!?!?! That even surprised me! Apparently regardless of personality types and other variables– those who are thriving in life are reporting an average of six hours every day of connecting which can include: talking to friends, socializing at work, being on the phone, communicating on facebook, etc. Across the board, every hour of social connection added to your day increases your happiness almost 10%! (Isn’t it ironic how easy it is to cancel on a friend when we’ve a bad day or skip out on socializing when we’re depressed, when in actuality, that very act of connecting will raise our spirits?)

I know it’s tiring.  I know.  I know it’s discouraging at times, I know.

But I also know that this is one investment that promises the biggest pay-off to your overall happiness and health. No small thing!

May you be reminded that your willingness to engage, to meet new people, to initiate the next get-together, to schedule women into your life and to foster these friendships over time is proving to raise your wellbeing! And don’t we all want that?
* All research listed in this blog can be found in the chapter on Social Wellbeing in Gallup’s latest book, Wellbeing by Tom Rath & Jim Harter. Purchasing their book provides a code for your access to take their Wellbeing Assessment.

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11 Responses to Are New Friends Worth the Energy Output Required?

  1. Lisa says:

    Hi, I need to make friends somehow. Unfortunaly I have chronic pain and have been unable to work since 2004. I am getting severly depressed being home alone every day, I have worked my entire life I am now 49 and feel very lonely and isolated I have tried volunteering numerouse of time at different things but I can’t commit because some days the pain in unbearable and I can’t do anything. I feel stuck and have this deep dark feeling over me all the time I have no reason to wake up I can’t stand it any more. Does anyone have any suggestions…. Please!!

    • Diane says:

      Lisa, various treatments like acupuncture, pain clinics and meds have not helped? Have you tried joining a support group for sufferers?

  2. amy says:

    I saw a women on TV who had written a book – 29 gifts: how a month of giving can change your life. Her name is Cami Walker. I was inspired by her and would recommend this book – focusing on the positive, etc – helped her overcome her pain and illness in an amazing way. Maybe this could help you too. Also, is there a support group near you?

  3. Dawna says:

    I’ve been there. As a military spouse, we move quite often. I make good friends, only to have to leave them, again. The last time we moved, I had made the decision that I didn’t want to bother making friends again. That changed when DH was deployed. I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to make it (well) on my own… I made friends, and now they’re moving. Again, I feel as though I’m right back where I started, trying to convince myself to put myself out there again. It’s challenging, I know…

  4. Nancy says:

    I moved to another state almost a year ago, to take care of ailing parents, I had grown up in So. Calif, in the L.A. area, lived there all my life… I still have a lot of my childhood friends, then friends, I made through work and with my volunteering where my girls went to school….
    I have made two friends, in the neighborhood, but they were my parents friends….(my age though), but they work and travel a lot, so we don’t get together much…… now that we have sold my parents house, we are moving yet again to another area, 3 hours away from where all our friends and family are… husband doesn’t want to go back to the L.A. area,
    I’m a very social person, but, have felt like I’ve been in prison….it’s very isolating….
    Not sure how, I’m going to meet people in this new area…..

  5. Cheryl says:

    HI im new to this area.but im from ohio .the area im in now i love it tho .great places to shop and do differnt things i have a 10 year old daughter and she keeps me on my toes .but love her so much .. I have a boyfriend i moved in with bt hes not the easestperson to live with so hopefully i can get an apartment in huberhieths if everything works out i have intervie soon for the apartment .so i hope i get it ..and it would be so nice to make a friend i could get to know to chat with and all the good stuff that comes withfriends ………

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  8. Tovah says:

    Oh my gosh. I cannot believe that I read this article today.

    I was just talking to my husband how I think I just lost another friend due to my “inactivity” –failure to check in, talk,write, etc.

    I know I feel better when I’ve been with my friends, yet, it seems so easy for me to let them go. Kinda sad.

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