Ever seen those stock images of women laughing alone with salad? Sometimes, that’s what leading a healthy lifestyle can feel like – minus the laughter. When all your friends are socializing over beer and wings (or martinis and canapés) and you’re left at home with your quinoa, healthy living can seem a little lonesome.
Health can sometimes feel like a solitary pursuit – if you’re focused on wellness, you’re probably turning down invites to the bar and turning in early instead. But there’s nothing healthy about loneliness. In fact, having friends in your life is one of the most important predictors of health and happiness, and having few friends is more dangerous to your health than obesity — it carries the equivalent risk of smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
Luckily, you don’t have to sacrifice your healthy living goals to develop close, fulfilling friendships. Follow these simple tips to get out there while getting healthy, too.
1. Turn those independent activities into social ones. Exercising, grocery shopping and cooking can be done alone, but that doesn’t mean they have to be. Join a running group instead of putting in your miles by yourself, throw a healthy dinner party for all your friends or organize a brown bag lunch club at the office. Or keep it simple – next time you’re running to the farmers’ market, why not go with a friend? No doubt she’ll need to pick up a few things, too.
2. Use your healthy living powers for good. Now that you’ve got this healthy lifestyle thing down, you probably have all sorts of useful skills – meal planning, cooking, putting your heels on the floor in Downward Dog. Watch out for opportunities to use those skills to help others. Bring a jar of homemade soup to a sick friend, volunteer to teach a meal planning workshop at a nearby community centre, or coach local youngsters in your chosen sport.
3. Cultivate a wellness community (or join one near you). Even if your particular group of friends isn’t wellness-focused, trust us – you’re not the only one in the world who’s more interested in kale smoothies than chocolate martinis. If you live in a large-ish city, you’ll likely have no problem finding yourself a group of fellow runners, healthy cooks or yoga aficionados to meet up with. But if what you’re looking for doesn’t exist in your area yet, be brave and make it happen! Start by creating a Facebook or Meet Up group and take it from there.
4. Remember that new friends are silver, but the old ones are gold. Sometimes, making big changes in our lives (like switching to a healthy lifestyle) can lead to social shakeups where we find ourselves totally friendless for a time. This is okay – you’re making room in your life for new, amazing people to come in. But friendships don’t always have to end just because your interests have changed. Try spending time with your nacho-loving friends in neutral territory, like a museum or park instead of a restaurant. And leave the judgment at home. We all have our own journeys, so share your wisdom only when asked. Let them come to you when the time is right!
How are you cultivating your own wellness community?
Photo credit: Ashleigh Grange, CNE