You’ve probably heard that having friends makes you happier. Well, research reveals that you’ll spur even more joy by belonging to social groups that align with your personal interests. Tune into this week’s episode to discover why researchers say social groups are so important to your happiness. Plus, try my 7 suggestions for ways to find these kinds of groups so you can boost cheer.
Check out the book that inspired this podcast, THE HAPPINESS UPGRADE: ONE SMALL STEP UP TO A HAPPIER LIFE (available at Amazon) at HappinessUpgradePress.com.
Learn more about the Happiness Upgrade Podcast at HappinessUpgradePress.com.
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You’ve probably heard that having friends makes you happier. Well, research reveals that you’ll spur even more joy by belonging to social groups that align with your personal interests.
Hello and welcome to the Happiness Upgrade Podcast. I’m your host, Gabrielle Lichterman.
You’ve probably heard that having friends makes you happier. Scientists say it’s because humans are inherently social creatures, so we feel good when have other folks in our life.
This seems to make sense. After all, even introverts like me enjoy having at least a few folks in our social circle who we can turn to for advice, tips, support or just to talk about the latest news in our areas of interest. And, my extrovert friends seem to enjoy interacting with lots of folks for virtually any reason at all.
Well, researchers have discovered something surprising about the joy-boosting effects of social connections. Turns out, joining groups that align with your personal interests, goals or beliefs makes you even happier than simply having any kinds of friends.
And, the more of these types of social groups you join, the happier you become.
This is the conclusion of a collection of eight studies conducted by an international research team that were published May 27, 2015 in the journal PLOS ONE.
These studies included more than 1,800 people who ranged in age from children to older adults and included those from a variety of cultures and backgrounds.
After surveying the participants to find out how many social groups they belonged to and examining the effect these groups had on the volunteers, researchers found one common theme:
Being a member of groups filled with like-minded folks ratchets up your self-esteem while simply having friends does not.
On top of that, the more groups you belong to that reflect who you are, the higher your self-esteem climbs, making you even happier.
At first, this may sound a bit counterintuitive. After all, your friends are typically people who know you best. You tend to spend more time with them than those you see once a week or once a month in a group setting. In fact, there are some groups that you may only interact with online in messageboards or on social media, yet they’re still more impactful to your self-esteem than the friends you see in person.
So, why is this true? The study authors explain that being a member of groups that align with your interests, beliefs or goals bolsters your sense of identity. For example, if you’re a member of a group of writers, you feel more like the writer you want to be. And for every group you belong to that reflects other parts of your self-identity, such as your spiritual beliefs, political affiliations or love of arts and crafts, your identity feels more secure.
The researchers then explain that when you’re part of a group that reinforces aspects of your self-identity, you get a whole host of psychological benefits. These include a feeling of belonging, a sense of purpose, meaning in life and support from others.
That’s because you’re connecting with folks who are a lot like you. They understand you in ways that others might not. They follow your customs and traditions. They are willing to be there for you for the challenges and accomplishments that are unique to this aspect of yourself. For example, if you’re a member of a group dedicated to staying sober, other members likely share a similar history. They can give you tips to avoid slipping into unhealthy habits. They’ll cheerlead your success. They’ll understand you in ways that others who aren’t on a path to sobriety, even your own close friends, may not.
So, all the psychological benefits you get from the collective group fuels your self-esteem. You feel better about yourself and who you are.
So, how can you use the information you learned about joining like-minded social groups today to give yourself a Happiness Upgrade this week? Here are my 7 suggestions:
1. Join a group that gathers to do an activity together, for instance, a book club who meets at a library, a knitting circle at your local crafts store, a bicycle organization at a nearby bike shop or a walking club at a park. If you can’t meet in person, join a group that uses video conferencing to gather or who uses an online messageboard or private social media group to talk about your shared interest.
2. Participate in religious, metaphysical, philosophical or spiritual study groups. When I first moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, I joined a weekly Buddhist meditation group. Even though there was very little talking, it was comforting to meet up with people who shared the same spiritual outlook that I had. Being in a new town that was very different from where I’d moved from, New York City, I instantly felt like I belonged.
3. Team up with others to achieve good-for-you goals, such as reaching a healthy weight, quitting cigarettes, reducing stress or maintaining sobriety.
4. Play games in person or online with other game enthusiasts, such as chess or Dungeons & Dragons.
5. Connect with folks who are following the same life path as you, such as activists, artists, entrepreneurs, parents or volunteers.
6. Look for organizations that are aligned with your professional goals, such as associations for accountants, web designers or writers.
7. Join a group where the members create something together, such as a musical band, community garden or art murals. My husband, Douglas, is a musician and guitar instructor. For as long as I’ve known him, which has been 27 years, he’s always been in one band or another. Being a member of a group that makes music helps define who he is. And when he’s between bands, for example, right after we moved from New York to Florida, he always immediately seeks out more musicians who are looking to form bands or who need a new guitarist. He also joined our local synagogue’s band, the Jammin’ Jews, to connect with other folks who not only shared his love of making music, but also his religious and cultural background, giving him an opportunity to reinforce several aspects of his identity in one group.
Those were my 7 suggestions for finding social groups that can give you a Happiness Upgrade this week. I hope you find them helpful.
Thank you for joining me for another episode of the Happiness Upgrade Podcast. I hope the mood-boosting tips you heard today help you give yourself a Happiness Upgrade.
To learn a simple method that makes this tip and any other self-care tactics even more effective at boosting your mood, pick up the book The Happiness Upgrade: One Small Step Up to a Happier Life by me, your host, Gabrielle Lichterman, at Amazon. This book shows you how small actions, like the one you learned today, can halt a negative mood and lead to a rise in happiness.
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I hope your week is filled with happiness!