If you’re dedicated to creating powerful changes in your life, how do you maintain that focus in the real world after treatment? The answer is positive human connection.
Whether you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert, creating a supportive social network of people who enjoy similar interests and activities is a strong component for continued health.
Positive Social Interaction Is Important
Numerous studies indicate a simple fact: people who feel connected with family and friends and within the community are more satisfied with life, have fewer problems with their health, and tend to live longer.
Often, someone who struggles with addiction may interact with various people, but these encounters are usually negative and erode self-worth. Loneliness and isolation may also play a part in the compulsion to use drugs or alcohol.
Positive social interaction contributes to mental and emotional health issues as well. When people feel connected to others, they:
- Have greater self-esteem
- Are more likely to have better coping skills for anxiety and depression
- Are more trusting and cooperative, making it easier for other people to also trust and cooperate with them
- Have greater empathy for others
Engaging with people who share your interests, hobbies, and the desire to live healthfully are the primary ways to improve your interactions with others.
What About Socializing Online?
There’s no doubt that online interaction in a global community can be a wonderful activity. You can learn so much from someone in another country, or follow an unusual interest with people outside your physical location. Following people on social media or sending a quick text to someone are commonplace exchanges of information.
Yes, technology enhances our ability to reach out in many ways, but keep in mind: we are biologically hardwired to be socially connected, primarily face-to-face. Some studies even indicate that positive in-person social interaction reduces depression better than a phone call or email. For people who may be concerned about the possibility of relapse after treatment, forging interactive relationships with people you can laugh with, talk to, and enjoy activities with on a regular basis is vital for staying on a healthful path.
Finding Positive Activities in Real Life
You don’t have to be the life of the party or a social butterfly to feel a sense of belonging and form meaningful connections with people. Personalities of all types can benefit from sharing interests and activities with others. If you don’t know where to start, here are a few ideas.
Meetup.com: This site, developed in 2002, has a core mission—to use the internet to get people off the internet. This free service connects people to groups with shared interests, such as reading, film, fitness, business, gaming, crafts, music, languages, charity work, outdoor adventure, spirituality, animals, sports, and a host of other topics. A Meetup might be an organized hike in a local park, a business-building workshop, a “read the book, then watch the film” social group, a dining club featuring people who get together to try new restaurants, and so on. It’s free to join different groups, but certain activities might include a fee.
Weekly alternative papers: Most communities have a weekly publication that promotes festivals, concerts, workshops, and other happenings in the area. Staying current with these activities may encourage you to visit a different neighborhood for a street festival or go to a new event.
Community education programs: Most municipalities offer seasonal community education programs for adults interested in developing new skills, trying a different hobby, or simply making life better in some way. The class series are short—somewhere between two and six weeks—and attendees meet weekly. There’s usually a nominal fee for the majority of classes, but it’s a small price to pay to engage in a fun learning atmosphere with other people.
Libraries, book stores, and coffee shops: Quite often, there are numerous events, clubs, and activities at these locations, and you can learn about other opportunities in your town or city through their bulletin board postings. A coffee shop may have a poetry reading or a musical guest; a book store may have one or two clubs to share book ideas and discussion; and libraries may bring in special guests or host other events. If there’s a college or university where you live, also be on the lookout for its special programming.
Spiritual centers: If you’re spiritually-inclined, there are quite a few social engagements available, including small-group meetings held at churches, synagogues, and other places of worship. You can also consider meditation centers—it’s common for an evening at these centers to include a meditation session followed by a potluck so people can get to know one another.
Volunteer programs: When people join together over a common cause, it can create a powerful bonding experience. No matter where you live, your contributions as a volunteer are valued, whether you pass out water at a 5K race, clean up a city park, help lead a discussion group for people in recovery, or participate in any number of other worthy efforts. You can often find things to do through Volunteer Match, or contact an organization with a purpose meaningful to you and offer your services.
You have the ability to create a community of like-minded people that nourishes you and supports your intention for a positive, healthy life. Try some of these paths and be open to discovery.
To learn more about our detox and treatment programs at Twin Lakes, please use the convenient contact form.
NCBI: Social Networking Sites and Addiction: Ten Lessons Learned.
UCLA Newsroom: UCLA neuroscientist’s book explains why social connection is as important as food and shelter.
Psychology Today: How to Make Friends When You Don’t Have Play Dates.
National Institute on Drug Abuse: Understanding Drug Use and Addiction.
Psychology Today: Face-to-Face Social Contact Reduces Risk of Depression.
The Guardian: Susan Pinker: why face-to-face contact matters in our digital age.
Science Direct: The Human Face as a Dynamic Tool for Social Communication.