Well, it has been a while, people! I took an unplanned, extended break from my daily blogging for no other reason than it just all got away from me. And that is okay. I am not one to dwell too much in such things. But I was riding home from the gym this morning and I remembered how cathartic these daily musings were for me and I decided to pick it back up. Let’s see how far I get. Today, I am going to discuss the idea of building communities in different places for different needs. I have to admit, for years I was not very good at this. Almost all of my friends were connected to my work in higher ed. And even today, most of my friends are connected to my work. But that is changing.
I am big fan of Dan Buettner, author of the book Blue Zones. In his book he explores why there are regions of the world such as Sardinia, Denmark, and Singapore where people not only live longer but are markedly happier than the rest of us. They live well into their 90s and show little in wear and tear on their bodies and often remain sharp and witty until they pass. In the book he explores how diet and exercise play a role, but one area he emphasizes is the power of communities and friendships. While diet and exercise is key his is adamant that without the close ties of friends (and family) these smart strategies for health don’t really hold up. And in many cases these communities are friends who get together to play a sport together, they have a knitting circle, a book club, or church community. There are many reasons why and the options for what counts as community is endless.
But for many the opportunity for community ends at quitting time. And this all makes sense. We spend more awake time with our co-workers than just about anyone else. From 8-5, most days of the week we are committed to working closely with others. Eventually there are bonds formed and friendships bloom. And these can be beneficial. Afterall, having friends at work makes the work more tolerable, research has shown we are more productive, and these bonds can lead to better work and opportunities for promotion. But when your only friends are at work that can lead to issues as well. Unfortunately, when your friends are from work you tend to discuss work way too much and often fail to disconnect. This can lead to getting too intertwined into office politics, perhaps developing inappropriate relationships, and creating unequal workplace dynamics. So there needs to be a balance.
According to research done at Oxford University in 2014 even a couple of afterword meet-ups at the Pub with a few mates has therapeutic effects. Whereas drinking afterword in isolation at home can have negative effects on health, their study of men who go to the Pub a few times a week tend to form better male relationships and report fewer bouts with depression, an overall better feeling of well-being, and said their relationship with their spouse was stronger. But if you don’t like a pint, you can find other ways to get together and form bonds outside of work.
Truth be told, I love going to my favorite Pub, World of Beer after work for a couple of beers. I have formed relationships with many of the regulars as well as the staff and I look forward to sitting with them chatting it up and discussing the news of the day. I also play trivia with my wife there every Thursday and we both look forward to our interactions with the other teams. The other place I have found community are at the two gyms I am a member of, Hard Exercise Works (HEW) and Rukus Cycling Studio. Both allow me to get in a good sweat and I have formed close bonds with the members of the gym and the coaches. It all allows for me to forget work for a short amount of time.
The additional community has also been good for my marriage. By having friends outside of work, we have a life that does not include our jobs and this allows us time focus on each other. We sit in front of the TV less and find time to socialize and this has reconnected us to dating and finding a reason to maintain a social calendar.