Do You Have the Single Greatest Predictor for Happiness?

The following is the third in a series of life lessons where I explore what fueled my resolve, not only to recover but to live a fulfilling life. Enjoy the third installment.


If you’ve ever heard me use the term “foxhole friend,” then you know I take loyalty seriously. Thankfully, foxholes aren’t as common as they were in World War I or II, but in my world, they’re an everyday occurrence.

In both world wars, the foxhole was a place where you and your fellow soldiers looked out for one another. You sought protection from the enemy when you launched into battle. Today, my foxhole friends are the people my wife, Mary Ann, and I can depend on no matter the situation. And they can expect the same of us. I like to explain it to readers in this way: A foxhole friend is someone you can call at 3 o’clock in the morning, and they’ll tear out of bed to be at your side.

This year has felt like one long battle after another with the pandemic, social upheaval, and the election. If it weren’t for the support of steadfast friendships, I’m not sure where any of us would be. 

Research tells us that social connections are the single greatest predictor of someone’s success, happiness, and longevity. It’s why mentorship programs for youth actually work and why meal-delivery programs for the homebound improve the well-being of recipients. It’s one of the reasons I got out of bed every morning during my recovery. People need connectedness.

I’d like to take social connections to the next level and encourage you to think about loyalty. A steadfast network of foxhole friends could be your priority for 2021. If you can’t name one, two, or three loyal friends who qualify as foxhole friends, then you need to ask an important question: Who can call you a foxhole friend? 

I used to ask this question of my three children, and I still ask this of myself. The best way you can ensure that you have the social support you need is to be the kind of friend you want. 

Chances are that next year will be the extended movie version of what we experienced this year. Just when we thought this year’s plot could be put to rest, we need to channel our inner superpowers and endure. Think about who in your universe needs steadfast support until things start to turn the corner. If you’re still on the fence, here are a few of the many benefits:

  • Helping others gives us perspective. We gather a greater sense of how our own concerns matter (or matter less) in the world. Perspective tells us how we’re part of humanity and that we’re not alone with our worries.
  • Supporting others over time improves our resilience. The body releases a hormone called oxytocin when we help someone. Many call this reaction the “helper’s high” because we feel a rush of positivity and it improves our mental health.
  • Lending faithful support helps you find meaning. Author Steve Bloom says a meaningful life isn’t found but created through our actions. When we focus on others and how we might help, we experience a sense of greater purpose.

Take it from someone who’s got a trench full of foxhole friends. Life is a helluva lot more fulfilling when you have someone in the foxhole to share the important moments. Don’t let anyone in your life go into battle alone. Be a good friend in 2021. Ask, “What can I do for others?” You’ll be surprised by how many reciprocate when you need it most.

Live beyond your mask,

Brian

2 thoughts on “Do You Have the Single Greatest Predictor for Happiness?”

  1. Well done, Brian!! I am starting to think you are heading over to my field of work now. Your perspective on social connections and well-being is one of the most important factors to living a healthy life with longevity and purpose.

    Peace,

    Lisa

    Reply

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