The Importance of Maintaining Relationships as You Age

Do you still make friends like you did when you were in school? Do you have a life outside of work?

In From Strength to Strength, Arthur Brooks explains how you can achieve a meaningful life as you get older. He provides a how-to for switching your focus from chasing success in the workplace to finding success in life in general. One of the ways to do this is through connections with family and friends.

Read more to learn about the importance of maintaining relationships in the last half of your life.

The Importance of Maintaining Relationships

A key theme in Brooks’s suggestions for pursuing life success is that competing against others brings professional success while connecting with others brings life success.

Brooks believes that nobody can live purely as an individual. People naturally support one another emotionally, intellectually, and even materially. The more you understand the importance of maintaining relationships—the more you decide to love and support the people around you and accept their love in return—the happier you’ll be.

Conversely, trying to go against that natural order by isolating yourself or selfishly chasing professional success your whole life will leave you stressed, lonely, and unhappy.

(Shortform note: Scientific data backs up Brooks’s argument here: Loneliness is extremely harmful to both mental and physical health, especially for older people. Loneliness and isolation are linked to an increased risk of health conditions ranging from anxiety and depression to heart disease and strokes. In fact, some experts say that loneliness is almost as bad for you as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.)

According to Brooks, some research suggests healthy relationships are the single most important factor in maintaining your physical, mental, and emotional health as you age. While other factors, like body weight and alcohol consumption, did affect people’s overall well-being, the healthiest and happiest people—almost without fail—were the ones who were most satisfied with their relationships.

How to Cultivate Your Connections

Brooks stresses the importance of interpersonal connections, but he doesn’t offer much advice on how to cultivate them. Furthermore, it’s notoriously hard for adults to make friends. So, here are a few tips to help.

One of the easiest ways to make new friends is to join a group that interests you, where you’ll naturally meet other people who share that interest. It also helps to be bold—to make friends you wouldn’t make otherwise, you may have to accept invitations you’d normally turn down or try making the first move to start a new friendship.

Also, don’t overlook the importance of casual acquaintances: people whom you see frequently but don’t consider close friends, such as your coworkers or the bartender at your favorite bar. Some studies have shown the positive impact that such relationships have on people’s happiness: The more acquaintances you have, and the more frequently you interact with them, the more likely you are to be happy. Therefore, it’s arguably worthwhile to say hi and make small talk with your acquaintances whenever you get the chance.
The Importance of Maintaining Relationships as You Age

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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