This week, we asked Wealthy Retirement readers to give us a glimpse into their holiday spending for 2019.
We discovered that our readers ran the gamut when it came to preparedness, though the largest contingent (17% of readers) reported that they are finished their shopping.
(This may be because 36.3% of our readers are early birds, starting before the turkey even hits the table for Thanksgiving.)
We also learned that many of our readers do their holiday shopping online.
What these readers may not realize is that convenience comes with a price…
They’re putting themselves at risk for one of the biggest threats to health in retirement.
According to a study by the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society, those who use the internet frequently spend 70 minutes less daily interacting with family and 25 minutes less sleeping.
And even if you’re not the one sitting by the twinkling tree alone tonight, think of the retirees and the friends who may be.
According to psychotherapist Joyce Marter, LCPC, “Empty nesters, the elderly and individuals who are grieving – the loss of a loved one or relationship – may be particularly vulnerable…”
And it all comes down to biology.
According to renowned American psychologist Abraham Maslow, humans have a hierarchy of needs: survival, safety, belongingness, esteem and fulfillment.
And central to all of them is companionship. And no time is companionship missed more than around the holidays.
According to a review of more than 148 studies, strong social ties can increase an individual’s overall survival by as much as 50%.
Social isolation can lead to increased stress hormones, poor sleep, a compromised immune system and – especially for those in their golden years – cognitive decline.
Conversely, relationships encourage healthy behaviors, such as eating right and exercising.
(And – of course – the survival of the human race depends on human relationships.)
Companionship not only is important to survival but also is critical to overcoming potential threats.
This is safety in numbers at its most basic.
A 2006 fMRI study (an experiment that maps neural function in the brain) showed that women had a less emotional response to a perceived threat if they were holding someone’s hand.
The threat was minimized even more when it was the hand of their spouse.
According to the Social Baseline Theory, the human brain expects access to social relationships.
So we’re hardwired to seek out social groups. But more importantly, we expect to be accepted into them.
Rejection can be crippling. In fact, neuroscientists have found that ostracism can hurt us more than verbal or physical assault.
It doesn’t matter who you are… You rely on relationships for your self-worth.
According to a recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, self-worth is closely tied to our romantic relationships…
People who stay in a romantic relationship for less than a year do not see a boost in self-esteem relative to those who stay single. And after they break up, their esteem plummets below the esteem of those who remain stag. However, people in longer-lasting relationships do see an increase in self-esteem.
I’m not suggesting that you sign up for Tinder. Everyone is different. You don’t necessarily need to be in a romantic relationship.
But we need other people to work our way up Maslow’s hierarchy.
And now that we are starting to see the freedom and time that come with wealth accumulation, the quality of our connections becomes even more important.
So this holiday season, make a habit of spending time with family (especially during mealtimes), friends and acquaintances who share similar interests – and not just when it’s convenient.
Even just a trip to the mall to do your Christmas shopping – solo or with friends – can help minimize loneliness and get you moving.
Volunteering is also a great way to stay social and gain some perspective. There’s nothing more fulfilling than giving back and helping someone in need.
The Missing Factor
Interestingly, Maslow’s famous hierarchy doesn’t mention one important factor we champion here at Wealthy Retirement.
As Alexander Green, editor of our sister e-letter Liberty Through Wealth, regularly points out, wealth gives you the freedom and time to do what you want, where you want and with whom you want.
I think Maslow and Alex would agree, though, the whom is key.
So as you wrap up your holiday shopping and prepare to give gifts to loved ones this year, try to be present.
The time spent together and care you put into catching up with friends and family have physical and emotional benefits that will last long after the new year begins.
Remember, the holiday spirit is infectious.
P.S. If you’re looking for a good way to connect with and help others (and an excuse to escape the cold), check out the nonprofit medical clinic that CEO and Executive Publisher Julia Guth started in Nicaragua. Here’s all the information.