Ensuring that you have a network of supportive people in your life is critically important. There are mountains of research confirming the value and benefits of having a strong support network. Many people utilize their support network as a way to manage stress, as a means of self-care, and a venue to process and regulate their emotions. A good support system can also be a sounding board to vent to, as well as check our thinking and conclusions.
Beyond simply having a network of people, it is also important to make sure you have carefully vetted them out overtime to ensure that they are safe and trustworthy. High-quality people in your support network are mentally and emotionally safe; meaning they are kind, caring, supportive, and non-judgmental. You can share things and be vulnerable knowing you will not be ridiculed, judged, or belittled by them. You also want to choose to surround yourself with trustworthy people who have proven to be honest, dependable, and reliable. You don’t have to be a social butterfly or an extravert to create a solid support system. Having 3-6 really close people is often adequate for most people.
Support networks also require on-going maintenance. Relationships that are not nurtured tend to fade and be less accessible when we need them. In today’s global economy it is more common that people will move away for work or travel seasonally to be in a different climate, which means that people in our network are likely to come and go. This can create geographic barriers to needed support. Consequently, it is important to not only maintain a relationship but continue to build new relationships so you don’t wake up one day and find yourself all alone.
Although it should go without saying, we will say it anyway. Part of having a strong support network is reciprocation. Relationships go both ways. Make sure you are living up to the same attributes and standards you are seeking in others. Be safe and trustworthy for others and you will be likely to get it in return. Longevity and happiness studies have shown that good friendships are one of the top variables that will keep you living a long happy life. Take the time to build something that will last and continue to pay dividends.
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