Diana Boufford BSW, RSW, is a social worker employed in private practice and through a hospital in Windsor Ontario Canada. She has been working in psycho-geriatrics for nearly 15 years. She is now working in the hospital's Problem Gambling Service. This gives her opportunities to employ her clinical skills and interests in positive psychology in the course of individual, familial, and residential counselling around addictions. Diana's articles for PositivePsychologyNews.com are here.
Here are some practices that build social fitness and social networks. Be brave, go forward, have fun, and make this the best time of your life.
- Participate regularly in activities that you find meaningful and engaging. Don’t know what they are? Watch for times when you lose yourself in something or feel particularly satisfied. What were you doing? Try new things and see how they affect your spirits.
- Give of yourself to others: That could be to friends, family, neighbors, people in your religious center, children in school, other elders in nursing homes. This will give you direct experience for building social fitness and prevent you from falling into a pit of self pity and isolation. Just going by to say hello to a neighbor might lift someone else’s spirits.
- “Follow your bliss”. Do something you love everyday!
- “Share yourself.” Find ways to share with the younger generation(s) the wisdom and experiences you have experienced throughout your life. Why let the wisdom you’ve accumulated go to waste?
- Learn something new: Engage in a new project that will stimulate your mind, your spirit, your hands, and put you in touch with others who are interested in the same thing. There are courses by colleges specifically designed for elders. There are online courses such as those at coursera.org. There are writing classes, knitting classes, exercise classes, meditation classes. There are movie nights and discussion groups. The list goes on.
- Create: That’s self explanatory, whether it’s sewing, baking, painting, gardening, woodworking, writing, any activity that has you create something. Share your products with others, or even better, find ways to do the creative activity with others.
- Mentor: Teach someone else something you know.
- Play to your strengths: Engage in activities that allow you to build upon the skills that you are already have. If you are good at writing, step it up and volunteer to write articles for a local publication whether it be a agency dedicated to some cause you support or even letters to the editor at your local newspaper. If you are good at cooking, think about who could benefit from the lovely food you produce.
- Positive Gossip: Talk about others, but only the attributes that you admire about them. To make it even more fun, do it within earshot. This idea comes from Fredrike Bannink.
Bannink, F. (2012). Practicing Positive CBT: From Reducing Distress to Building Success. Wiley Blackwell.