Valentine’s Day: Individual Expression of Love or Mass-Marketed Money-Making Machine?!
OK, so we don’t want to blow out anyone’s rose scented candle, but we thought it was timely to discuss human relationships with Valentine’s Day just around the corner! We are all for taking the time and effort to prepare a lovely evening for your other half, but at the same time are hyper-aware that the perfect Valentine’s experience isn’t always a reality.
What’s more, the commercialisation of the whole occasion raises alarm bells as to how genuine the whole process is. Ever seen a queue of guys on Valentine’s Eve all with the same card and bunch of flowers?! Shouldn’t love be expressed year-round and without financial implication?
The pressure to be with someone and celebrate a romantic day is huge for both those in a relationship and the happily single. Then the following day all is forgotten, giant cuddly bears and cupid cards go on sale and normal life resumes.
Whilst this may seem a little (or a lot!) pessimistic, the point we would like to make is that real, meaningful and rewarding relationships are vital for our health and wellbeing – year-round, not just February 14th! We all have an innate need to feel loved and wanted.
The Importance of Relationships for Human Health
Relationships come in many different guises – they can be one-on-one, within a group of friends or colleagues, as part of a family or even within a community with a shared interest or philosophy.
Whatever the nature of the relationship, they all have one thing in common: connection. It is this connection with others that we have evolved to need and adapted to benefit from. When it comes to the impact of social connections on our health, the evidence speaks for itself:
- People with the lowest levels of social interaction are 3 times more likely to die prematurely compared with those with the most interactions
- Social connections have the potential to prevent disease and help us live longer
- Chronic loneliness increases the risk of stroke or heart attack by as much as 30%
- Social stress has been shown to be a bigger risk factor for chronic disease related mortality than lack of exercise, smoking and alcohol excess put together
Humans Are Social Beings
It’s easier to understand logically how loneliness can affect our mental health. But the importance of connection and socialisation are difficult to prove in terms of physical health implications. Having said this, the evidence above really does demonstrate a cause and effect relationship. So how come relationships have such am impact on our bodies?
Well, social psychologists understand that we are genetically designed to be sociable creatures and have evolved to thrive as part of a group or community – rather than being alone. In ancestral times, communication and rapport with others were vital to survival. So, the body can interpret loneliness as a threat and release stress hormones in response. Over time, this can cause chronic inflammation and increase the risk of many diseases.
The Effect of Not-So-Social Media
In the age of social media where connecting with anyone at any time is easier than ever, more and more of us are suffering with feelings of loneliness and isolation. Ironically, social media amongst other modern tech inventions has made it harder to really connect with people and maintain meaningful relationships. Instead, they promote a mentality of anonymised and virtual connection.
Most of us cherry-pick the best parts of our existence to share with others online and choose to keep things like a night in alone with a glass of wine and pyjamas to ourselves! Consequently, what we see online of others appears to be a superior existence and one which can contribute to feelings of loneliness when compared to our own. This is something we have dubbed the not-so-social media effect.
What Can I Do to Better Connect with Others?
The good news is that there are lots of things we can do to reconnect with people and improve our sense of community. Most of these involve proactive thinking and adapting our modern habits to become less virtual and more reality! Here are some suggestions to help you feel better connected with others.
💚 Seek Out Likeminded Individuals
Think of something you usually do on your own – reading, writing, running, cooking – and search out a forum or online community to join. Incorporating something you do anyway into a more social platform means you’re ready equipped with conversation and a genuine connection with others – making for plenty of common ground and interesting discussion!
💚 Take a Social Media Break, or Limit Time Spent on Socials
Don’t get us wrong, social media has a whole world of potential for helping to combat loneliness instead of fuel it. The equivocal downside comes when we find ourselves caring more about the social media world than the real one. Try to limit your time spent on socials or have a full day off each week to experience life through your own eyes instead of others.
💚 Suggest a Meeting Where You Actually Meet Up!
The modern era makes it all too easy to get things done online and many of us communicate with people and even build relationships without ever having met someone. If the opportunity arises to meet up for a coffee or go for a walk with someone you’d otherwise only email or phone, grab it with both hands!
💚 Make Meeting Up Part of Your Routine
Most of us have suffered the effects of cyclical cancellations and rearranging plans! It can even come as quite a relief when others cancel arrangements and we can jubilantly recluse back into the realms of our comfort zone! To avoid this vicious circle, try to keep meeting with your friends or family in a routine. Knowing a time of the month or day of the week when you will always catch up makes it easier to plan ahead and stick to commitments.
💚 Learn to Love Your Alone Time
Bear with us! This may seem contradictory when it comes to being more social but making time for yourself can actually be beneficial to relationships in the long-term. Giving yourself space to do your own thing means that when the time comes to devote your time to others you’ll be better engaged and keener for company. So, learn to say no to others and make space for both me-time and quality time with others – instead of over-committing to a crowded social calendar.
Whatever you have planned this Valentine’s Day, we hope you can make it an opportunity to reconnect with someone you’re close to – romantic or otherwise! Remember, we all need to feel loved and needed for a greater sense of purpose. Taking proactive steps to be better socialised in the real world is just one way you can improve connections with others and promote overall wellbeing 👫
Author: Stephanie Masterman ( @NutriNoggin)