“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” — Jane Howard
Close family and friends give us many gifts. They appreciate us, they celebrate with us, they laugh with us, they cry with us. They share their knowledge and talent and resources. And we give them those gifts in return. Sharing our lives is a foundation for happiness; we all need family, friends, and community.
A recent study reported in CNN magazine points out that people’s happiness quotient goes up significantly (up to 25%!) if they have a close friend or sibling that lives nearby or a neighbor that they are friends with. Happiness ripples through social networks. If we have friends who are happy people, it boosts our own feelings of happiness and contentment.
For each of us, family, friends, and community may be different. Some may have a large extended family, one close sibling, a favorite aunt, or a family that they’ve adopted. Some may just have a few close friends while others are social butterflies. Some find community at church or are friends with some of the parents from their child’s school. Some belong to a jogging group, book club, or knitting group.
George Burns, the American actor, and comedian, famously said, “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” Well, no one said families are perfect, but we’re social creatures and we strive to have good relationships. And when we do? Our happiness quotient goes up!
Then there’s the concept of community at work. Workplace studies that focus on employee engagement and retention say that people want to have “a community at work.” If you spend seven or eight hours of every day at your workplace, you want to feel a sense of belonging and connection. When I was younger, I had a job where the secretary was the ultimate social convener. She organized Halloween parties, Valentine’s parties, birthday parties, and picnic parties. We were a happy department and the other departments gravitated toward our end of the office.
Friends, family, and community are there for us in good times as well as bad times, the times when we’re sad or disappointed or grieving. We share our emotions and it helps us to recover sooner, to not get stuck, and to make our way back to happiness. Friends, family, and community are also there for us when we celebrate, whether it’s a graduation, a wedding, a birth, a raise, a retirement, or some small personal victory. Celebrations bring people closer together and spreads the happiness.
If this is an area lacking in your life, there are some easy concrete steps you can take to add community to your life:
Go to church. This is one of the best places to find community.
Join a club (book club, knitting club, running club, spelunking club).
Go to the group classes at the gym.
Reconnect with old friends by making one hour per week a “phone call hour” where you just talk to friends on the phone.
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” – Productivity consultant Denis Waitley