YOU and I are social animals. Our two-legged and four-legged friends are also “social” creatures. They are usually in pairs or in herds. Like us, humans, these animals apparently also value, long for, and enjoy companionship. The loners among them usually do not survive long. Most obviously, social life, a sense of belonging, a comfortable feeling of security in number, a natural mental sense of community, is essential to health, mental and otherwise.
That social nature starts the day we are born, in the arms of our mother, nurtured in the crib, and developed into a complete positive mental state through interactions with both our parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends. All this enables us to develop lasting relationships and a rewarding mental health, which affect and influence all other lives we touch.
Human beings’ capacity to live a stable and happy life and our survival as a species heavily depend on our social skills, attitude, and social behavior.
The history of man on earth shows that cavemen started forming small groups, literally for security and for survival against the harsh and unforgiving environment, and vicious attacks from animals preying on them. That dependency on each other is still very evident even today, in this modern, technologically advanced society of ours. Indeed, no man is an island, and a loner is, comparatively, at a much graver risk of ill-health and attrition.
Like our need for proper nutrition and shelter, humans also need that sense of belonging, within the family, among friends, in a community, in society, and in the world at large. This support-group structures and interactions, emotional, recreational, even informational, are vital to people’s health and life. The last one has led to the popularity and proliferation of social media. This modern-day phenomenon is a tangible testimony to the value of social behavior as a natural need of homo sapiens.
A lonely person, alone, without friends, is doomed to be more depressed and more likely to die of ill-health, or even kill himself/herself, compared to another lonely individual who has a ton of family and friends providing him/her love, friendship, inspiration, and moral support.
A sense of belonging keeps us, humans, connected with our fellowmen, within our own circle, our community, conferring upon our being the reward of acceptance, a gratifying inner satisfaction that we are “in,” and “one of them,” akin to being a member of a club or a fraternity/sorority or a party. This sense of belonging is fundamental for our emotional and physical well-being, a powerful prescription that effectively enables each of us to cope with the sometimes unfriendly and harsh environment and social order.
Attitude and social skills
Our social skills, which are vital to our acceptance as a member of a group or community, are developed or impeded by our attitude, which, like social prowess, also significantly impacts our life and our health. Both are pre-requisites to health, happiness and inner peace in each of us human beings.
Show me a man with an attitude and I will show you one abandoned by his friends and scorned by strangers he irritated and riled. A good attitude compliments and boosts our social skills and acceptability to “belong.”
Here are some quotes of wisdom I have come across which are inspiring philosophical parachutes in life for those who, like many of us, sometimes find themselves falling towards the pit of discouragement and despair. With the proper attitude, these sage proverbs lift our spirit by allowing us to view and accept the trials and tribulations in this world in their most positive and best light. Indeed, all of us need a psychological boost, an inspiration, every now and then. Here are some that inspire and guide me:
Anthony J. D’Angelo, in The College Blue Book, said “Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.” To quote Oscar Wilde, “If you don’t get everything you want, think of the things you don’t get that you don’t want.”
Voltaire expressed it beautifully when he stated, “Life is like a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” An ancient Persian saying puts a great perspective on our daily aches and pains in life, “I had the blues because I had no shoes until upon the street, I met a man who had no feet.” And as some of us may curse some bad days we encounter and wish they never came. Cavett Robert offers these poignant words: “If you don’t think every day is a good day, just try missing one.”
Indeed, every day is a good day, although others are better, and others not as good. But each day is a gift. Not waking up to another day is a deadly waste, but not appreciating another day as we open our eyes each morning in our journey through life is a tragedy. How each of us greets the day depends greatly on our attitude. Indeed, attitude impacts our health, our life, and our everyday happiness and success. A person with a chip on his shoulder, with a negative attitude or pessimistic view of life, will obviously be miserable most of the time. And the opposite is true, as Annette Goodheart brilliantly points out: “Just because you’re miserable doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life.”
Happiness is basically an attitude. Gaining inner peace is an attitude. We have that God-given power to feel what we want to feel. And we can even psyche ourselves. I do. Our attitude and social behavior play an important role here.
In a world where global peace is still a dream, a world beset with an economic crisis, with terrorism, with greed and corruption, with energy, food and water shortage, global warming and its devastating side-effects on typhoons, earthquakes and flooding, a good social skills and attitude, in the midst of all these disasters, are one of our best weapons against helplessness, despair and depression. They indeed impact our health and life.
With all these complex problems confronting us, we often find ourselves in the gutter of hopelessness, wherefrom, Oscar Wilde suggests, we can look up at the heavens and “see the stars.” Indeed, a positive attitude, a happy outlook in life, especially these days, can help us tremendously in conquering our fears, insecurities, and dilemmas. Without total surrender, when we sometimes lose or fail, we should remind ourselves to get up and fight even harder. After all, “defeat is not bitter unless you swallow it,” as Joe Clark states. To this, I will add my own: “No one can succeed in life who does not have the courage to fail”; and, “The greatest risk in life is in not taking any risk at all.”
Someone said, “You cannot adjust the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sail.” Very true, indeed. Simple words of wisdom that could make our day, if not our life.
But, of course, we should not simply leave everything to God. We must do our share. He promises to help those who help themselves. While we cannot cure the cancer of poverty in our country, we, as individuals, who are more blessed, can at least open our heart to help the homeless and the hungry, and gain that sense of satisfaction and inner peace. As I have stated a few times in the past, let us not wait for surgery to open our heart. Let our social behavior and good attitude and compassion for our fellowmen reign.
As I live my life each day, I remind myself of an ancient proverb that says, “To everyone is given the key to heaven; the same key opens the gates to hell.” It’s indeed a matter of personal choice. And that choice inevitably depends on our attitude in life. Some people believe their fate is predestined, and that they can’t do anything about it. Others, inspired by good attitude and a positive social frame of mind, design, create, and charter their own destiny.
Finally, I strongly believe that leaving this world after this life is not a tragedy. Dying without significance, without making a difference, without leaving behind a good legacy as a social being, is.
Let’s all develop good social skills and a positive attitude to help us enjoy life. It’s a potent prescription for health and happiness.
Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org