Family structures and dynamics have changed significantly when compared with past centuries. In today’s world, we tend to idealize and foster independence and individuality. From a very early age, children are taught to become independent and make their way in the world without family. Buying your own house, starting your own family, striking out on your own – these are the benchmarks of success today.
No matter your age, family still serves a useful purpose today, especially with mental health. Below are some ways how keeping in contact with family can improve your mental health and overall quality of life.
Depending on how large your family has grown, the task of keeping up with each individual family member may appear to be an overwhelming/time-consuming task. But don’t give up! Communicating with family is actually stimulating and can help keep your brain from atrophying.
If your family is anything like mine, your Thanksgiving holiday consists of about 40 hellos, ten concurrent conversations, and a handful of pumpkin pies. Needless to say, I have a big family.
At the top of the family food chain are my grandparents. They are both very engaged 85-year-olds. When I ask my grandpa what keeps him so active, he responds, “Keeping track of all of you!”
He’s got a point. When you have four children, eight grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and associated husbands and wives, plenty is going on. Staying connected with the people in your life and their affairs requires your brain to categorize and memorize, two essential brain functions.
Sure, my Nana occasionally can’t find the sunglasses that are on her head, but she’s always the first to wish people a happy birthday or ask how a recent trip went.
Whether or not your family stretches as wide as mine, keeping in touch with loved ones helps maintain a fresh brain, which contributes to overall mental wellness. Even if you haven’t embraced family and traditions in the past, it’s never too late to reconnect with family and reap the health benefits of the connection.
The act of communicating can also help your social health. By constantly exercising your social skills, you are more likely to feel connected to others and experience a sense of belonging. What better place to belong than with the people you love?
Don’t let family gatherings slip away. Spending in-person quality time with family allows you to stay recent with their lives and get to know them more personally. Of course, some family members live farther away, in which case a steady flow of letters, phone calls, and other methods of communication will suffice.
Feeling comfortable with people you already know is natural. They know your habits and your opinions, as you know theirs. Aging can limit the amount of instances when you meet new people and welcome them into your life.
Although you know your family, you may not know the people in their lives. As friends and significant others are introduced to the family, you apply different social skills that you may not be accustomed to using. Take advantage of the opportunity to get to know and welcome these new people.
Surrounding yourself with blossoming relationships will allow you to lead a more engaged lifestyle and experience happiness well into your senior years.
Perhaps the most important of all the mental health benefits is a functioning support system. Feelings of isolation and depression are all too common amongst aging adults. To battle the tendency, it’s vital to have strong relationships in your life that you can depend upon to help you through the tough times, whatever they may be.
According to a research article by Consumer Affairs, social isolation contributes more to death than loneliness, emphasizing the need for aging adults to have strong social connections.
Aging can mean you are likely to lose people who have been lifelong friends. Perhaps children and younger generations don’t understand the struggles you face during the current chapter in your life. In which case, to cultivate relationships with people, such as siblings, cousins, and close friends, who can emphasize with your situations is important.
Relying on younger people in your life can also be beneficial. Research reported by the Huffington Post found that 68% of children say their parents depend on them for emotional support. Without a close relationship with your children, there is only so much they can do to help you, so keeping these relationships active and fulfilling is key.
Immersing yourself in relationships with people who know you and love you will improve your social community and as well as contribute to your length and quality of life. Whether you live around the block from your family or a town or state away, it’s never too late to enjoy the benefits of loving and caring relationships with your family. And what better legacy to leave with your kin than memories of a loving and devoted family?
Whether they live near or far, there are countless ways to interact with family, either in person or via smartphone (backlink to smartphone article). Instead of spending the rest of your life only reading a book or watching TV, get in your car or pick up your phone, and reap the benefits of connecting with your family.
We want to hear about your experience, so Submit your Story about how family has impacted your health and your life!
“THANKFUL – Free eBook!
Join the Through Wolf’s Eyes newsletter and download your free eBook now.
Whether you are an avid TWE reader or first time downloader, a member of the iGeneration or on the brink of retirement, my hope is that through this eBook you can discover what matters most to you in life and and time to appreciate it all.