Have you caught this two-minute YouTube video that’s been making its way around the social media channels lately, “Cat-Friend vs. Dog-Friend”?
Be forewarned, it’s edgy. Huffington Post describes it as “tastefully offensive,” a combination I’m still pondering. Either way, last I checked, it’s nearing a billion hits, and counting. Besides offering a laugh, it provides a lead-in to this week’s discussion on the importance of spending time with friends and family. Even if you’re an introvert like me – more cautious cat than exuberant pup – we all have an important role to play in our community. Simply by spending time with one another, the entire tribe ends up stronger for the experience.
“I hope if dogs ever take over the world and they choose a king, they don’t just go by size, because I bet there are some Chihuahuas with good ideas.” – Jack Handy, Saturday Night Live
So, even though my first instinct when nobody’s looking is to bury myself in a good book or engage in my daily meditation, I regularly make time for friends and family in my life. It’s like physical fitness. I may or may not want to at first, but once I engage in social “exercise,” I’m usually glad that I did.
Social relationships offer us several benefits:
- It gives us a glow from caring, loving and understanding one another.
- It provides a safety net of tangible and emotional support during times of trouble.
- It enhances our sense of security.
- It strengthens our mind and spirit by providing a diversity of ideas and influences.
- It’s fun.
One of my favorite comic strips, Calvin and Hobbes, sums it up more succinctly: “Things are never quite as scary when you’ve got a best friend.”
A body of evidence supports my personal observations:
- Susan Cain wrote an awesome book, Quiet, about “the power of introverts.” In her column “When Does Socializing Make You Happier?” she cites a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which concluded that some levels of socializing increases well-being in both introverts and extroverts.
- Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project cites research coming out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that, “out of 15 daily activities, such as exercising, commuting, or doing housework, everything is more fun with company.”
- Even the Dalai Lama, the epitome of introspective meditation, emphasizes that developing deep relationships is among the most important steps in pursuit of life-long happiness.
My fellow introverts may be rolling into fetal positions by now, but take heart. To enjoy all the benefits that social relationships have to offer, you don’t have to become “that person” at every party. You know, the one whose voice rises about all the rest and who is seen mingling with one and all. You don’t need a billion hits on your YouTube video, or hundreds of real or virtual friends.
As Cain explored in her column, you can enjoy the spike of stimulation that social activity offers, without becoming conflicted by interaction overload. She explains: “Many introverts find ways to spend their time that are deeply fulfilling – and socially connected – but where there is no conflict.”
In other words, to all things, balance. You can choose between quality versus quantity.
Now go hug someone you love. Next week, we’ll discuss the benefits of giving.