“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”. Proverbs 27:17 to make yourself better, you will have greater likelihood of success with others who are working towards similar goals.
The single most significant factor in people’s happiness and well-being is social support. Study after study has shown that people who have good relationships are healthier mentally and physically. These relationships do not need to be deep connections. In 2014 researchers Gillian Sandstrom and Elizabeth Dunn performed a study where they recruited 60 adults, 30 men, and 30 women, from the front of a Starbucks. They instructed half of the volunteers to interact with the baristas, and the other half were told to keep all conversations as short as possible. Sandstrom and Dunn found that the people who had intentionally interacted with their baristas came away with an improved mood and a greater sense of belonging. Social support is considered a key component of lifestyle change interventions. However, social support does not have to come from family members or a spouse. It can come from co-workers, friends, or even the front desk clerk at your local gym.
An article in the Obesity Journal in 2012 reported that women who rarely or never experienced social support were less likely to lose weight (45.7% lost weight). In contrast, women who experienced frequent social support were more likely to lose weight (71.6% lost weight). A supportive social environment has also been a strong predictor of being physically active. Being physically active makes it easier to maintain a healthier weight. We are more likely to succeed when part of a community for four key reasons. First, they have camaraderie, which comprises fellowship and common goals. They relate to where you are as they have been there too. Second, friendly competition within the group helps us stay committed and not cheat ourselves. Third, the community holds us accountable, and lastly, the community motivates and encourages each other. We are pushed because of the common goals of the community, and we are encouraged to stay with it because others around us are struggling to stay with it just like us.
Overwhelming research notes the increased likelihood of success with a support system. People are constantly looking for THE solution to lifestyle change. The truth is that the key is finding your lifestyle change goal is breaking your big goal down into achievable pieces, and finding YOUR community to help you keep your goals. It is hard for an alcoholic to stay sober hanging around with alcoholic friends. Likewise, it is hard for you to stay committed to your lifestyle goals if you spend all your time surrounded by pre-packaged sugar and people who don’t care about their long-term health. Maya Angelou said, “No one can make it out there all alone.” A community that supports your lifestyle change will help you through those rough weeks and get you to the other side of your goals faster than you can get there alone. The lifestyle change journey will be much sweeter when you have little victories to celebrate along the way with someone or your group of someones.
Action Step: Spend 10-15 minutes right now thinking and googling a group that will help you stay on your lifestyle change path. Get some teeth in the game and join them for one month.
Looking Ahead: What is wellness? I will break down the critical components of that ambiguous term because being well is more than just diet and exercise.