The Introverted RVers Guide To Being Social & Living Longer
I don't think husband James and I have had a more social summer ever than this one.
The Driftless Adventure RV Tour, the GNR/WIT Rally, the Outdoor Retailer show, and tons of bicycling events...it was so out of the ordinary for the two of us introverts, I've even coined it:
"2015: The Sempiternal Summer of Socializing." (Ah, alliteration!)
Don't get me wrong. It's also been one of our best summers ever. Probably only beat out by that summer we kayaked in the Panama Canal...hard to beat a bucket-list experience like that.
There is a misunderstanding that introverts don't like to be around other people. Not true at all. We just have a more inward focus. In social situations, we have to draw ourselves out, which in large doses can be draining. Extroverts naturally have an outward focus, so they're in their element when others are around. There's definitely a sliding scale here, too, and we'd be on the mild end. And let me correct you right now if you've always been under the impression that all introverts are shy. If you've ever met me or James, you know we are FAR from shy, and we aren't lacking in self-confidence one bit. Shyness has nothing to do with being an intro or extrovert. Yes, you can be a shy extrovert. They're the ones who love karaoke nights with friends, and while they quietly long to get up on stage and belt out a heartfelt rendition of "Desperado," they don't dare (sober, at least).
So, this Sempiternal Summer of Socializing has actually been quite good for us. With research pointing to the health benefits of a social lifestyle, I know this is something James and I need to continue to work at. Let's face it, James and I have got the exercise thing down. We also eat right, and keep our stress in check....well, one of us does (not to mention names, but the one with the Y chromosome is a giant stress magnet). And yet in our quest to live & RV longer, we easily overlook a powerful weapon: our friends and loved ones.
Being Social Adds Years To Our Lives
So, what exactly is socialization? Simply put: It means interacting regularly with other humans. It's attending RV rallies, taking trips with other RVers, joining in a Pickleball game, having friends over for a picnic, group exercise classes, volunteering, etc. And the more of these types of activities you do, the longer you live.
According to a pair of studies published in June 2012 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, older adults who were identified as lonely and socially disconnected were 45% more likely to die earlier than those who had meaningful connections with others, even after results were adjusted for factors like depression, socioeconomic status and existing health conditions.
Need more evidence?
Research done at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina (July 2010) reviewed 148 studies on social relationships and concluded, "that people with stronger social relationships had a 50% increased likelihood of survival than those with weaker social relationships."
So, now you see why I'm pretty happy with myself for having an incredibly social summer. It's like putting coins in The Stef Longevity Bank. The more socializing I do, the more longevity coins I earn. And since we've already established my introverted nature, this is work for me...but necessary work to stay well and to live long enough to see my grandchildren grow (and hopefully my great-grandchildren).
Want some unsolicited advice from an introverted RVing health-conscious grandma of two? Take a moment to really evaluate your own social levels. Do you have meaningful relationships? A group of friends that support you? Are you involved in clubs and activities outside the RV doors? If so, good for you! Your own Longevity Bank continues to fill. If not, I hope you'll take steps to change this. Because all that time you spend alone could be shortening your life.
Besides, we all want more RVing years, that's a no-brainer. Getting social is another powerful weapon to get us those extra years.
And now that I've typed long enough, I'm getting out of this RV to join the neighbors, who invited us over for campfire snacks. Another coin in the bank...check.