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Bros Need Bros

In-person relationships affect men’s mental and physical

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When you were younger, chances are you had more friends than you knew what to do with. Through school, sports, clubs, and common interests, you gravitated to people with similar interests, and they naturally gravitated to you. It was easy. You just showed up.

Your life then became more complex: a career, a partner, kids, a house, a dog, and now, I’m willing to bet you have one or two close friends, and you probably rarely see them in person. Does it really matter? Your mental and physical health may actually depend on it.

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Benefits with friends

Social connection can create an important buffer between stress, depression, and other mental health issues and positive mental health. It also correlates to an increased likelihood of seeking help when in mental distress.

All of that is great, if you have friends. About 30 years ago, 55 percent of men had at least six close friends, while today, only about 27 percent have at least six close friends, with 15 percent reporting no close friendships at all.

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When men do have friends, how do they “hang”?

An American Journal of Men’s Health study references three pretty distinct patterns:

1)      Relationships with other men are usually “instrumental,” focused on shared activities and interests, whereas their relationships with women are often based more on sharing about their personal lives.

2)      Men tend to have more difficulties in confiding in other men. Many still attribute emotionality to femininity, which often tends to be an undesirable trait in male social groups.

3)      Many men cite a desire or pride in being an “independent guy” who believes in stoicism and rejects the need for social support. Further, when these men do encounter difficulties, they try to handle it themselves, not wishing “to burden other people with [their] problems.”

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Social connection and health

People with strong feelings of social connectedness are more insulated against characteristics of negative mental health, including loneliness, anxiety, depression, and isolation. It can also play a role in maintaining a healthy BMI (body mass index), improving blood sugar control, and even offering better odds of fighting cancer!

Tim Geromini, nutrition, strength and conditioning coach and owner at Elevated Nutrition Coaching, says, “If you spend time with people who are physically active, you’re more likely to be physically fit and healthy. If you spend time with people who challenge themselves intellectually and are honest with each other emotionally, you’re going to gain knowledge and be happier.

“That feeling of social connectedness … with the right people, will positively impact your mental wellness and physical health.”

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Partner power

If you’re reading this and realizing this is all ringing true for someone you know, consider that you can play an important role in powering up your partner. Remember, the “independent guy” won’t ask for help even if he needs it.

Considering the benefit that connection brings to overall health and well-being, consider this your green light. But before you start planning that perfect man date, we leave you with a few tips from Geromini.

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Offer gentle encouragement

Approach the topic with understanding and empathy. Encourage open and honest conversations about any concerns or fears about socializing.

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Lead by example

Be a role model by actively engaging in your own social activities and maintaining a social life. Demonstrate the positive impact of social connections on your own well-being, which may inspire and motivate your partner to take their own steps toward fostering meaningful relationships.

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Identify shared interests

Do something social together with your partner. Try signing up for local classes, clubs, or events that you’d both like.

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Support networking

Offer to accompany your partner to networking events, social gatherings, or workshops. Provide emotional support by being present and offering gentle encouragement.

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Act as a resource

Help discover resources and communities that align with your partner’s personal interests. Research local social groups, clubs, or online communities they may find engaging and inclusive.

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Gradual exposure

Encourage small steps toward building social connections. Start with low-pressure activities such as inviting friends or neighbours over for a casual game night or attending small group outings.

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Express unconditional support

Maintain a nonjudgmental and understanding approach. Remind your partner that you’re there to support them.

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Don’t be an “independent guy” (or girl)

There’s freedom in the feeling of not needing anyone. But if that mantra isolates you or prevents you from seeking help when you’re in need, it’s problematic.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, as we all do at times, there are free resources offered by the Canadian Mental Health Association (chma.ca) and your provincial/regional health authorities, and they want you to connect with them.

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Social anxiety helpers

Ask your local health food store—and your health care practitioner—about the following supplements that may help boost your energy (and motivation to get social!) and that can help ease the anxiety associated with going on the bro hunt:

• omega-3s • magnesium • vitamin D3 • GABA • St. John’s wort • lemon balm • ashwagandha • Bacopa monnieri• folate • L-theanine • Rhodiola rosea• vitamin B6

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Expand your social horizons

Unsure of where to start? Tim Geromini, owner at Elevated Nutrition Coaching, offered these suggestions.

Join community groups 

Explore local organizations, sports leagues, clubs, or interest groups that align with your passions.

Attend networking events 

Attend professional networking events, conferences, or seminars related to your industry or hobbies.

Take up new hobbies

Pursue activities you’ve always wanted to try or develop existing interests. For example, enroll in a cooking class, join a men’s pick-up basketball league, or learn a musical instrument.

Utilize social media platforms 

Leverage the power of social media to expand your network. Platforms such as Meetup, LinkedIn, and Facebook events can be excellent resources to find local gatherings and meetups.

Attend workshops or seminars

Attend personal development workshops or seminars focused on building social skills, communication, and confidence.

Seek professional help 

If you’re struggling to overcome social barriers or feeling isolated, seek professional guidance from therapists or life coaches who specialize in social well-being.

Foster existing relationships 

Remember to nurture and strengthen existing relationships, whether with family, friends, or colleagues.

 

This article was originally published in the June 2024 issue of alive magazine.

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