How strong is your network?

Have you ever stopped to watch a spider build a web? When you take the time to really focus on the intricacy of a web, you can appreciate all the time and effort the spider puts into anchoring the web, connecting the lines, and making sure the pattern of the web. canvas is evenly spaced to avoid gaps. A spider’s web is like the relationships and social networks we create in life.

Networking is a group or system of people or things that are interconnected. Rewarding and supportive relationships form a strong bond between us and those around us. But just like a web requires the spider to function and maintain the web, our relationships and the way we interact with others require constant attention and maintenance.

Our social support system can provide a buffer against difficult life events and improve our quality of life. This tangible and intangible aid system serves as an anchor that keeps us grounded when we are faced with problems. Sometimes this support takes the form of information, for example: the extension service provides information to residents of our county that can improve a person’s quality of life and skills. Other organizations and individuals provide instrumental support to help people’s physical lives, such as the volunteer services provided by Extension Homemakers. Emotional support is provided by the actions people around us take to make us feel that they care about us.

Strong social networks are associated with a healthier endocrine and cardiovascular system. The past year has shown how important healthy social media is to the way we respond to stress and the ability of our immune system to fight infectious disease. In fact, research shows that people who have a strong social network tend to live longer.

The silk of a spider’s web has both strength and elasticity. Our relationships can be complicated and need strength and flexibility to keep connections from being severed. A spider must remain vigilant and quickly repair any break in its web for it to fulfill its role. Our social networks can be fragile and force us to work to maintain our connections with others. Indeed, we must nurture the relationships that nourish us.

The connections of our social network are constantly evolving. People or groups come and go, interests change and basically “life goes on”. The health risks of being alone or isolated in life are comparable to the risks associated with smoking, high blood pressure and obesity. Taking steps to grow your network can help.

Ways to develop your social network:

• Volunteering is a great way to help others and connect with your community.

• Joining a class to learn something new can introduce you to a whole new set of people with similar interests and talents.

• Exercise! A gym or exercise group membership brings direct health benefits and puts you back in touch with new people who can support and encourage you.

• Use your hobbies and interests to find ways to connect with others.

• Finally, take the time to nurture and support your family and friends to strengthen the bonds you already have.

July is Social Welfare Month. Take the time to assess your relationships and the way you interact with others. The cooperative extension service offers a variety of ways to learn how to strengthen relationships as well as opportunities to get involved in your community. You can visit our website at Life Skills and Wellness Resources in Arkansas (http://www.uaex.edu). For more information on programs in Garland County, call the extension office at 501-623-6841 or follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/garlandcountyextension.

Information on the master gardener

The Master Gardeners Meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month at the Elks Lodge. Meetings are open to the public and guests are welcome. For more information call the extension office at 623-6841 or email Alex Dykes at [email protected]

EHC Information

Are you interested in joining an existing extension housewives club? EHC is the state’s largest voluntary organization. For more information on EHC, call 623-6841 or email Alison Crane, Family and Consumer Sciences Officer, at [email protected] Follow Alison on Facebook @garlandEGF and @Garland FCS, and EHC on Facebook @GarlandCountyEHC.

4-H information

There are several 4-H clubs for Garland County youth aged 5 to 19. For more information on Garland County 4-H Club membership or program benefits, contact Carol Ann McAfee at the extension office, call 501-623-6841 or send an email [email protected] More information is available at http://www.uaex.edu/garland.

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