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Why friendship is good for your happiness and health

 March 27, 2023 at 1:58 PM PDT

S1: It's time for Midday Edition on KPBS. Today , a show on friendships and their power to uplift us and even keep us healthy. I'm Jade Hindman. Here's the conversations that keep you informed , inspired , and make you think. The 85 years of research on the role of friendship.

S2: And when we step back and look at the common finding across hundreds of findings , it's relationships that drive our happiness and our health , our physical health as well.

S1: And tips on how to make a friend and be a friend. Plus , a glimpse at a group of San Diegans who found friendship through soccer. That's ahead on Midday Edition. First , the news. Hey , welcome back , Maureen. Hey.

S3: Hey. Welcome back , Jade. Midday Edition has been closed for renovations for the last couple of weeks , and there have been some changes.

S1: We're going to give our topics some more time , some breathing room to really get a good conversation going with our guest. And we won't just be talking about the headlines , but we'll get into the real stuff about living in San Diego.

S3: Also , we want to bring our listeners into the conversation. We'll be asking for a lot of your comments , a lot of your opinions about the show and your suggestions for future programs.

S1: One important thing to add is Midday is still under construction , so new ideas and new additions are still coming up.

S3: So thank you so much for sticking with us while we were gone. We are back , so let's get the show started. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. And I'm.

S1: Jade Hindman. This is KPBS Midday Edition.

S4: It's insane World.

S5: But in it there is one sanity. The loyalty of old friends.

S6: Look , you and I are a team. Nothing is more important than our friendship.

S7: Not as good as you.

S8: Me looks cleverness.

UU: Are more important things. Friendship and. Bravery.

S8: Bravery.

S9: You reminded me about what the most important thing in life is. Do you know what I think it is ? No , man. Friends.

S10: Think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

S1: Today we are talking about friendships , what role they play in our lives , what they mean for our health and wellness , even the challenges of finding and keeping them in these times. Mark Schultz is associate director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development , the longest running scientific study on happiness. He is also the co-author of the book The Good Life , as well as a professor of psychology at Bryn Mawr College. He joins me now to share more about what the science tells us about the role friendship plays in our overall happiness and well-being. Mark , welcome.

S2: Thank you , Chad. That's a pleasure to be with you.

S1: All right.

S2: And when we step back and look at the common finding across hundreds of findings , it's relationships that drive our happiness and our health , our physical health as well.

S1: And can you talk a little bit about how the Harvard Study of Adult Development works and what data it actually tracks ? Sure.

S2: It's really a remarkable study that began in the 1930 , and it tracked 724 participants across their entire life. Almost two thirds of the original participants were adolescent boys growing up in the poorest neighborhoods of Boston , facing really challenging economic circumstances. Most of them were children of immigrants. And then the remaining one third of the participants were students at Harvard University. Facing very different prospects in life , both groups were followed intensively across their entire life interviews , visits to their homes when they were adolescents , meetings with their parents , medical exams , physical exams , Interviews happen roughly every ten years. The study was very interested in trying to get the inner experience , the lived experience of participants , so we followed them very closely. Last 20 years , we introduced more modern methods like brain scans and blood assays to look at their immunological and genetic functioning , bringing them into the lab to stress them out and see how their bodies reacted and how quickly they could recover. So we've really followed them closely over time. We included the wives of the original participants , and now in the last ten years , we're studying more than 1300 of the children of those original participants. Wow.

S11: Wow. Lots of layers to that. Exactly. One amazing.

S1: Aspect of this study is how long it's been. Around.

S11: Around. It's currently in.

S1: Its 85th year , as you mentioned.

S2: So I want to say two things. One is that the the importance of connection hasn't shifted as far as we can tell in the research across the decades that we've studied people , relationships were critical to people born in the 19 tens and 20s as they are to folks today. But the nature of them has certainly evolved. So these originally were all male participants and they were socialized to be independent and to not talk about their feelings. Many of them , as they age , talked with regret about friendships that had withered and relationships that they hadn't taken care of. I think many people have that feeling as they age , but it might have been particularly true of men in this generation. So I think relationships have changed. People are more open about their feelings and the challenges that they face in life. And I think that's that's a good thing that we've changed in that way. Yeah.

S11: Yeah. In your book The Good Life , you and your co-author Robert Waldner , write about this idea of of social fitness.

S1: So what is.

S11: Social fitness and how.

S1: Should we be thinking about.


S2: And we thought this idea of of social fitness was an important idea. Obviously it's a metaphor like physical fitness , that we want to lean into our relationships and exercise those muscles , pay attention to them. It often starts any kind of fitness challenge with reflecting on where you're at , trying to figure out what your strengths are in relationships. So what kinds of relationships are fulfilling and enlivening for you and what kinds of relationships are challenging ? And once you make that assessment , we want to maximize the relationships that give us joy and pleasure. So we want to spend time , and regular time is ideal for those kinds of relationships , make them more frequent those encounters. But we also want to think about the relationships that aren't working so well. So maybe it's a sibling that you've lost touch with or a friend that you had an argument with and you haven't been able to get back to that same place. We need to think about ways to reinvigorate relationships that either grown stale or have been challenging for us. And if the other person , the other relationship partner that's important is willing to work with us , then we can reinvigorate those relationships with some work.

S11: Yeah , well , one challenge to that social fitness I would imagine , has been the coronavirus pandemic. I'm sure it challenged our social relationships.

S1: In ways we.

S11: Probably never even expected.

S1: So what does your research say.


S2: And what we know generally from lots of research is that the pandemic was challenging in the way that you suggested , but it also put into sharp relief for many of us how important our social connections were. So we can remember roughly three years ago when the pandemic started and we all had to be socially distant. How difficult that might have been for many people , even introverts over time began to thirst for connection to people. So I think it helped us recognize how important relationships are to be creative about ways to connect when we had to be socially distant. But it's been a hard three years for people in lots of ways. There's an epidemic of loneliness that I think has gotten worse through the pandemic. Studies in the United States suggests that those numbers are 20 to 50% of adults may feel lonely , at least on a basis of a week. So that this is a lot of people feel lonely. And we know from other research that loneliness is bad for our bodies. It corrodes our health. So loneliness is associated with shorter lifespans and more physical illness. So this is a real problem. The pandemic has certainly made it more difficult to connect.

S1: You know. But today we have so many ways to.

S11: Connect with others. We have video chat that we can do with friends and family thousands of miles away. We can talk to strangers on social media.

S1: So what do.


S2: And what I'll say is that all the new technologies allow us to connect and new and important ways. During the pandemic , they were invaluable. So video calls , zoom calls became really critical for people to connect across great distances and social distance. But there are also challenges that these new technologies present , like all technologies. And one of the challenges is that there are ways in which virtual connections aren't fully replicating or in real time relationships. So one example of that is that virtual connections tend to have less emotion. There are fewer cues that we can express even on a Zoom screen because we have limited accessibility to people's whole bodies. We just see the upper part of people's bodies. So emotion tends to be dampened and those cues that tend to glue us together as people tend to connect us are also dampen. They're less visible , so people experience less emotion , they feel less connected in those relationships that happen over virtual technologies. So we need to figure out ways to balance the benefits of the technology would also some of the challenges. And I think that's the current challenge , right , in workforces and educational settings , trying to figure out that balance of virtual connection and virtual time versus in-person real time.

S11: When thinking about friendships , I think a lot of us can relate to that feeling you get.

S1: When you catch.


S2: So having more friends and connections , particularly people you can count on , is often connected to better health , but it's also the quality of those relationships. So the question we asked and the Harvard study was in the middle of the night , if you're scared or something's wrong , who can you call ? And some people are able to note they have several people they can call and some people , even in close partnerships with their partner sitting next to them , that there's really no one that I can rely on in that circumstance. So close friends , really important not just to our emotional well-being , but to our physical health. One good example of why , as the ways in which friends help us navigate stressful challenges , they help us deal with our emotions. They suggest new paths forward. They challenge us if we're missing important pieces of the challenge. So friendships and other close relationships really important to our well-being.

S11: And I'm curious because , you know , I can speak for myself and say , you know , nurturing friendships is difficult. And it's been difficult for me now that I have a family because I spend so much time nurturing my family. And I would imagine a lot of people go through that.

S2: And the people who maintain those friendships have advantages and the way they often maintain them as they figure out ways to build in regular contact. You know a text every once in a while I'm thinking about you. I miss the time we used to get to spend together is great , but it's also important to figure out and to be creative about figuring out ways to get together. Could be a walk because you both want to maintain some fitness. It could be a mutual activity that you enjoy that we really need to take back our time and prioritize it for the connections that are important to us. There's some scary data out there that suggest Americans are spending upwards of 11 hours a day on screens. That includes work screens , but it also includes social media and all the new technologies. And instead of sort of passively letting our attention go to those technologies and screens , we might think about pulling back some of that attention and time and devoting that to people that are important to us , including our friends.

S1: Do you think work sort of presents challenges to friendships , like.

S11: Maybe people are exhausted ? I don't know.

S2: I think being exhausted and being stressed as a challenge to good connections , it's hard to be present and to be listening and are for a friend if you're feeling overwhelmed. The way we think about work is that most of us spend a lot of our waking hours at work , so we need to think about it to the extent that we can. Depending on our work context , we need to think about it as an opportunity to connect with others. So if your client facing , we need to think about those connections not just as a way to facilitate your business , but also as a way to connect with human beings that may share interests , that may teach us new things. And the same with colleagues and subordinates and people we work for. We want to maximize the nature of those connections as much as we can because they're important to us and we spend a lot of time at work. So work is a double edged sword when it comes to connections. Some people are lucky that they're in social context , in which connection , true connection is really possible at work.

S11: And as we're talking about friendships and even loneliness.

S1: I mean , is it possible. For.

S11: For.

S1: Someone to.


S2: You know , it's hard for me to imagine I'm a person that really likes being with people , even though I consider myself on the introverted end of the spectrum. But loneliness is not the same as physical isolation. So what we find today are some of the folks that have the greatest proximity to others like them. College students , for example , have some of the highest rates of loneliness. So it's possible to be lonely in a crowd. And it's also possible not to be lonely , to be content with your connections to others and be pretty isolated physically. When we talk about loneliness , we're really talking about having a sense that people know us , that they care about us , that we have a kind of identity that matters to people. So it's possible to do that if you're physically isolated , but you may have to work harder to do that.

S11: You know , you mentioned this idea of an epidemic of loneliness , and this is not a new idea. Social scientists have found that the time we spend with other people has gone down. The book Bowling Alone talked about this some 20 years ago , maybe a generation.

S1: Ago , more people attended.

S11: Church or were in a bowling. League.

S1: League.

S11: Have you seen any signs that these types of community connections are being rebuilt as we look to recover from the pandemic ? Yeah.

S2: So Bowling Alone really , you know , foretold a story that's continues to unfold. I think our connection to communities and the importance of communities in our life has lessened for many people in modern society. We many of us are mobile and have moved for work purposes away from where we grew up and our connections both through our family and friends. So I think people need to be more creative about building communities. And oftentimes I think in current period of life that our communities are built around the activities that we do. So it might be a recreational league if you're interested in pickleball or tennis or it might be a volunteer activity that's a , you know , a focus that's important to you , but also serves a function of connecting you to others. So I think with just like with relationships in terms of our community , we need to be intentional and really think about ways to build up our sense of community because it's become harder and harder to to just have it happen for us.

S11: Okay , my friend.

S2: Okay.

S12: Okay.

S11: All right , friend. Thank you.

S1: Mark Shultz is.

S11: Associate director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development and co-author of the book The Good.

S1: Life Lessons from the World's Longest Scientific Study of Happiness. And thanks again for joining us.

S2: Thank you , Jade.

S1: Maybe that conversation got you thinking about your own friendships. We asked you to tell us what friendship means to you. Mick says friends are the people that you genuinely want to include in and share about your life. Stay with us. Coming up , a conversation about cultivating friendships. This is KPBS Midday Edition. You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman. We've been talking.

S11: About friendship and about how important. Close.

S1: Close.

S11: Social connections are to overall health and well-being.

S1: We wanted to dig in a bit more on friendships and explore some of the challenges.

S11: That can get in.

S1: The way of making.

S11: New friends.

S1: I'm joined now by Kat Veloz.

S11: She is a certified connection coach and author of the.

S1: Book We Should Get Together The Secret to Cultivating Better. Friendships.

S11: Friendships.

S1: Kat , thanks for joining us today.

S13: Thanks so much for having me here today , Jade.

S1: So glad to have you.

S13: That question is so important. It's the opening level setting that I did in my book. We should get together , and I asked many , many , many of the people that I interviewed to give their definition of friendship , because one of the things that we find is that we don't all mean the same thing when we use that word. And I think to share one of the definitions of friendship that I found very resonant for me , very true. And it might resonate as well with a bunch of our listeners today. And this is not just a regular friend , but a close friend is someone whose well-being I care deeply about and who I feel confident I can depend on. I can tell my problems without feeling ashamed. Someone would go out of my way for and someone who is integrated into my life.

S11: All right.

S13: I describe what I call the four Seeds of Connection , which are commitment , compatibility , proximity and frequency. And you don't need all four of them necessarily at 100% , as many of us saw in the pandemic. We can have really wonderful friendships without physical proximity , but I don't know of very many friendships that work if you don't have any compatibility , right ? So it's best if you have all four. But in the absence of 1 or 2 , depending on which ones they are , you can also do okay or have different levels of friendship with different people.

S11: And , you know , I don't know like how much time you've spent here in San Diego , but it's one of those cities where a lot of people you meet aren't really from here.

S13: And so for folks in San Diego who are thinking of making new friends and not sure where to begin , I'll give you my number one best shortcut , which is to find a group of people who are already doing something that you really care about or passionate about or curious about , interested in , and then join their thing , which is already happening on some regularly recurring schedule and become a regular at that group. It is the fastest , easiest way to make new friends because you don't have to find the people yourself. You don't have to schedule with everyone individually unless you choose to. And you get to drop into a wonderful community that's already organized. And by showing up as a really engaged member , you will also make yourself magnetic to other people there for friendship.

S11: Great idea. So. So joining a group is key. What else have you found ? Works for building new friendships.

S13: Being really warm and welcoming in a new friendship is a really , really big key to really seeding that friendship and ensuring that it can continue to grow. Wings In my TED Talk , I describe the power of invitation as one of the ways to do that. So often we hold ourselves back from reaching out to someone , from inviting them into our life , or inviting them to share something. Because we hold back. We're nervous , we're shy , or we're not afraid. They'll say yes or we're afraid of rejection. But it really takes sometimes it's a numbers game with adult friendship. People are busy. Sometimes you just got to put keep putting yourself out there , keep extending that invitation and really , really good things can come from it.

S11: You know , starting a conversation with a stranger can be intimidating to a lot of us.

S1: And some people even.

S11: Find it completely weird when someone comes up and strikes up small talk or a conversation. I noticed that particularly after the pandemic. So what are some practical tips on how to start.


S13: So certainly a stranger on the bus is a little different than maybe a coworker. It's a little different than maybe your neighbor or an acquaintance that you met at a party before the pandemic. And you see them again. You're like , what do I say to them ? Again , I think it's okay if you're feeling a little bit awkward or unsure of what to say to even be really upfront about that. I've heard really great success stories from people who are quite honest and upfront saying like , Wow , it's after the pandemic and I'm so happy to see you , but I kind of have forgotten how to people , I don't know what to say , but I just want to hang out with you. I think if you're really open and authentic , people really connect to that. And it's so relatable for millions and millions of people right now. And also , I would like to empower anybody out there who's nervous about this to know that there was a really wonderful study out of. University of Chicago that had folks go and strike up a conversation with a stranger. Some of those conversations were just small talk. Some of those conversations were a topic that's a little more meaningful. And in almost all the cases , both the conversation striker upper and the person who had the conversation brought up to them rated the experience as much more enjoyable than they expected it to be and much less awkward than they expected it to be. So just realize it'll probably be better than you think it will. So just have the courage to try it. And if it doesn't go perfectly , try it again next time , it'll probably go better.

S11: All right. You also talk about this idea of an adulthood.

S1: Friendship , desert.

S11: Can you explain that for us ? Yeah.

S13: So this is the opening illustration so illustrated in my book. We should get together as well , because sometimes the research about loneliness and disconnection can kind of get you down a little bit. And I have a sense of humor , and I think it's important to bring levity to this. So the adulthood , Friendship Desert , which for those who are listening , it features such geographical landmarks as meet up mountains and ghosted gorge and text town and the relocation river. There's a lot of different places in the land of adult friendship that are represented here. The adulthood , friendship , desert is a thing. It's a real thing that's experienced by many people , often landing smack dab in their 30s , often mid 30 seconds , who are like , Wait a minute , what's going on with friendship ? Where did all my friends go ? What's happening ? And so I think that if we just acknowledge that there are so many competing demands for our time , so many different like twists and turns in the road of friendship , we can have a sense of humor about it and also get really clear and intentional about who what we want to create and who we want to create it with and pursue it with gusto. Hmm.

S11: Hmm. And why do you think making new friends as an adult can seem so hard ? I mean , I know there's , you know , competing priorities in there , but , you know , also there's this added layer that.

S1: Sometimes you just grow apart.

S11: From people.

S13: Sometimes people really do grow apart. Party. You find that you're in a phase of life where you're not relating as much to somebody that you might have been friends with from college or high school or from an old job in your past. And it's okay to acknowledge that we evolve as adults. Not every single person that you make friends with is meant to stay in your life forever. It's actually logistically impossible to be like besties with every person you've ever met. So it's okay to let some friendships gently fade away. You know , friendships don't have to end with a big fight or a breakup. It's okay to just let them quietly go fallow. I have a great blog post about this called Instead of Pruning Your Friendships , try this. And it uses the metaphor of a crop rotation and saying not everything is going to be in bloom every season of the year and that's okay , or even in every season of your life. And that's okay. It's okay to let the field rest , to let it just quietly go to sleep. And if you want to revive it later , it's still there.

S11: That's a that's a comforting thing to hear. And speaking of seasons , you know , like for me as a parent of a young child , I personally find it hard to not only make plans with.

S1: Friends , but keeping.

S11: Those plans with all the uncertainty that comes with having kids , especially a two year old. So do you have any suggestions there.

S13: For the parents or for friends whose whose friends keep canceling them because they have busy toddlers running.

S14: Around ? Everyone here. We'll start we'll start with the parent.

S13: So I think for parents who may be dealing with this and feeling like , oh , you know , I'm feeling bad , I keep canceling or I have so many unpredictable things happening. My schedule , I these kiddos think it's important to be really just open and clear with folks. I definitely have close friends in my life who have little kids or babies and and they're just super blunt. They're like , Hey , the baby just threw up all over me. I'm going to be 20 minutes late or something. And I'm like , Yep , I get it totally fine. I don't have kids. And I also don't have baby throw up on the front of my shirt , but I'm okay waiting 20 minutes for you or whatever it might be. And similarly , I will say for folks out there who are childfree like me , you know , be flexible with your friends. The rubric for how we show up is different because everybody's life looks a little bit different. I will say from researching friendship , it's given me a great deal more empathy for folks who are parents like yourself. Jade Because there's a lot to juggle. And now I find that never bothers me at all. If my friends need to reschedule or cancel because they have some parent related thing , because I'm like , I get it. You're your life is a bit more complicated than mine and I have plenty of grace and space for that.

S11: That's great. It's like you have to understand each other's life. Exactly.

S15: Exactly.

S1: Aside from making new friends , maintaining important relationships.

S11: Is also. Key.

S1: Key. We heard from one of our listeners , Faith Olander , on what friendship means. And here's what she had to say.

S16: There was a study that talked about the people you could call at 3 a.m. Those are like , You're really good friends. And I'm lucky because I have a few of those from elementary school from now. That means the world to me to know that somebody's going to listen. At any time.

S1: And , you know , I think she brings up a good point here. When we're talking friendship , it's not just making new friends , but it also is about maintaining those long lasting friendships when we live so far apart from each other.

S13: Want to acknowledge how vital it is to maintain these friendships that have mattered for a really , really long time in your life. Because the beautiful thing about it is you don't have to start over with folks like this , creating context for them about who you are and what your background is. And so maintaining those relationships , even if they go through ups and downs in frequency , I think it's really useful to consider what kind of love language your friend has. So whether that's words of affirmation , gifts , quality time , whatever it might be , see if you can communicate to them in their love language how much you value and appreciate them , even if through geographical distance you're not able to be physically together as much. So often , you know , one of my long distance friends and we're best friends. We were roommates for two years and we've lived in different states for 18 years. And so it's definitely something that we affirm to each other verbally. We're both like word people. We like writing , we like talking. And so words of affirmation works really well , though. So think about what works for your friend to affirm and value those friendships and then find time when you can to do something extra special for each other or together to really cement that bond.

S14: Yeah , finding one's love language.

S11: Is is truly key. I've been speaking with Kat Volos , author of the book We Should Get Together The Secret to Cultivating Better Friendships. Thanks so much for sharing some of these tips with us.

S13: You're so welcome. Thanks so much for having me here. And anyone who's listening , reach out any time. I'm here to help.

S1: You know , that conversation got me thinking about ways I can make time for friends. We asked you to tell us what friendship means to you. Carol says it means connection , presence , acceptance , understanding , patience , listening , joy and much more. Coming up , we've heard joining a group is one way to make friends. We'll hear how one such San Diego group is building community. You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman , as we've heard throughout the show today. Joining a group is a great way to make connections and develop friendships. We wanted to learn more about what it's like to be part of a group that turns into a community. So we reached out to members of the San Diego Sirens. They're the supporter group for the San Diego Wave FC Professional Women's Soccer Team , which , by the way , won its first game of the season Saturday. The sirens are part of a legendary tradition of soccer supporter groups. Here's ESPN soccer journalist Cesar Hernandez describing what they are.

S17: You just need to go to a game and you'll immediately see a difference. You know , they don't just see themselves as diehard fans. They they also , you know , see themselves as people who are truly dedicate themselves to backing their favorite team through active participation , that it's active participation. And they're almost cognizant that they're the driving force in creating an atmosphere in the event.

S1: We wanted to learn more about this group and what it means to its members. I spoke with Amanda Farr and Troy Ford. They are two members of the sirens. Amanda told me it's more than just a group of fans. It's a lifestyle.

S18: It really is more than just being a fan. It is a community and a way of enjoying a game just outside of your typical fandom.

S2: And being a San.

S19: Diego athlete , it's it's different for some of us coming in , having never been a spectator and really just learning to be part of a community outside of the team that you used to play on and and cheering on a bunch of professional athletes is is very rewarding in its own right. You know , when a player responds to the entire crowd around them , it really makes an impact on the team as being there.

S11: Yeah , it's like the team spirit going , if you will.

S18: I played about one season when I was 11 of rec soccer as a child and then never touched it again until about ten years ago. I needed to exercise more and to get out of my head a little bit. And so I started playing recreational soccer here in San Diego. And San Diego actually has a really vibrant recreational soccer community for adults. And so I came to being a soccer fan through playing it. I am , I'd like to say , a very , very recreational player. But when we got the San Diego Wave team here , it was an opportunity to watch the best of the best do this thing that I personally love playing and participating in and getting to watch that on just a completely different level. Nice.

S11: Nice. And Troy , you mentioned that you initially got involved in the sport through playing.

S1: But your interests.

S14: Shifted a bit.

S11: Tell us about that. Yeah.

S19: Yeah. Through sustaining some injuries and no longer being able to be a player myself , I've been able to enjoy the game from a different perspective for the supporters group The Sirens. Now I play the role of art director , so empowering others to really find a voice , whether it be , you know , through visuals , through marketing , through giant banners , you know , the largest forms of artwork I've ever , you know , contributed to has been very , very fun as well.

S14: Amanda , why.


S18: During the games , I was not a part of the sirens at the beginning of last year's season , but just watching them at the games and seeing what they did out in the community as well , it was just one of those things that you saw and you felt and you were like , I want to be part of that. I want to be able to participate in that. And it's also just I think for me , I'm a parent and it is important for me to show my kids and to emulate that that we can be part of a community. And the what the things the effort that we put into a space comes back to us as well. And so they love participating in sirens activities. They love knowing the people who are there as well. And so it's really just that community aspect and the energy that the sirens bring.

S11: That's great. And Troy , you mentioned these giant banners. I've heard those referred to as T foes. Can you explain what those are and what types of art you've been building with the sirens.

S19: In Supporters group culture ? A Tifo is a performance art that combines visuals as well as either music , chants or dance. And so the tifo for me gives me a chance to create a really impactful. Visual and allow a lot of a lot of other supporters the chance to contribute to that artwork through painting and stenciling and a lot of other smaller banners. But the biggest ones we have are 36ft wide and get run up cables in our brand new stadium tour.

S11: You know , like when some people think of soccer's most hardcore fans , they may visualize like fireworks , rowdy chants and the like. But the sirens sometimes take a slightly different approach , don't they ? For example , the Sirens goal celebration has a bit of a different look.

S19: For us as a supporters group. A lot of us are new to the culture and so we get to bring new ideas and fresh perspectives that include families , perspectives that include kids on drums who don't know what they're doing , but are still having fun right now. And part of that was met with some skepticism. But for our goal celebration as a supporters group , we have a bubble maker , massive bubble maker that makes a ton of a ton of just glitz and glam. And we also have all these other little bubble makers that we give to the kids. And so along with that rabid fandom and the screaming and the yelling and there's still smoke , but we like the bubbles more. And I think it's also resonated with , you know , the televised commentators. They're they're getting into it , the team as well. While initially skeptical , they've kind of embraced some of the newer ideas from our new supporters members.



S14: Amanda , I'm curious , what's your favorite cheer or celebration.

S11: That the sirens do ? I mean , are you a fan.


S18: Uh , I would say as a parent , particularly as a parent who has some kids with some sensory complications , bubbles are such a great and , you know , welcoming way to celebrate this and think that that just goes back to just the the purpose of the sirens. It was very explicitly made to be an inclusive group where any background , any body ability , any language , any level of understanding of soccer , any of those things are just so welcomed and included. You can be a person off the street who has never watched a soccer game , but if you want to get in there and participate and come to watch parties and cheer or don't cheer or jump or don't jump or bang on drums or don't bang on drums , you're welcome. In the science , there's a place for you and there is a role for you to play. That is truly what I find so wonderful about our supporters group is that it is a supporters group , not just for these players on the field and not just for that club in front of us. And it's definitely for them , but it's also for the members of the sirens themselves that we are inclusive and supportive of each other. Right.

S11: Right. It sounds like there's something for everyone. That's great. I hear you both get a real sense of community from being a part of this group. Here again is journalist Cesar Hernandez , who also talks about how the focus of supporters groups often is about much more than just what's happening on the pitch.

S17: I think what makes them kind of unique and which sometimes gets them in trouble with leagues or with teams themselves , that their venue for social and political support. I mean , think about with what San Diego loyal there is the locals supporters group and also the travels they're loyal and think of them last year having large banner and display that brought attention to gun violence. So it's in the end , it's it's a lot more than just singing and chanting at soccer games. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. Can you talk about some of the causes.

S11: The sirens.


S18: In this year , we are currently trying to the black the organization , but we have also done fundraisers for services for trans children and their families. And it is a place and an organization in a group that do think about these things. But I think that that's one of the beautiful parts of participating in a group like this , is that it's not just about soccer. It's really taking that enthusiasm for soccer and channeling it to make our larger community a better and safer and more inclusive space as well. Right.

S11: Right. And Amanda , a big part of San Diego.

S1: Wave FC's fan base is part of San Diego's LGBTQ.

S11: Plus community.


S18: As a queer woman , Soccer fandom has been a space where many where women and individuals have found a home. But it is wonderful to look out at the wave and the so many people who are supportive and who really want to make this a safe place. I think that being able to take our children and our next generation and show them that there are LGBTQIA players who are professional , who are highlighted on the world stage and that any opportunity is available is just such a phenomenal opportunity. But then also , I can't even fathom a space where there were sirens gathering that I would feel unsafe or unwelcome. And that is not something that we have everywhere , but it is just so incorporated into the ethos of who the sirens are and what mattered to people who show up there , that it really is that an inclusive and celebratory space , that it's not just , yes , we're tolerated , but our differences and our diversity is something that is truly celebrated. Right.

S11: And , you know , it's rare to find spaces like that.

S19: But I'll say that , you know , the weeks leading up to this opening match are really a great example of that. We've been working on the Tifo for four different painting sessions. We've been working with our previous season supporters to make sure that they're planning on attending the game so that we're there as represented in as many numbers as possible. And as many voices , like Amanda said , will be at Snapdragon 3 to 4 hours early to begin tailgate and to begin pre-game setup where , you know , upwards of 15 drums , a £60 banner and all those things make their way into the supporters section , make sure our bubbles are locked down and all of those types of activities leading up to the the kickoff. And then after the national anthem , we'll hoist the banner , the chants will begin and we will be on our feet in some form or another , chanting and cheering on the wave and hope for a win. Wow.

S11: Wow. Amanda , you know , I don't know if you're a big fan of any other teams , but how does being a member of.

S14: A soccer supporter group differ from being.

S11: A fan of , say , baseball.


S18: My family and I , we also have season tickets to the Padres and. Last year. It was incomparable , right ? It was just such a beautiful run and such a wonderful experience for San Diego. But that sense of supporters having their own community with each other , that just doesn't exist in sports like baseball and American football. But it is so ingrained and incorporated in the soccer world that you have these supporters groups and you show up for each other and for the game and you talk about the different players and who's going to be out there. And it's just it's a totally different feel. When I go to a Padres game. We love it. It's wonderful. It's so exciting to see what they're going to do this year. And if something you kind of do with you and your family and your friends , where when I show up to wave game , I'm going and I get to see 300 friends that I know and and have interacted with , and I'm just as excited to see them and be able to interact and hang out with them as I am to watch the game that's in front of me.

S11: All right. And Amanda.

S14: If someone does want to get involved.


S18: It is San Diego You can go in and sign up. Think that that is also another thing that's so great about the sirens is that to become a member , it starts slow. It's $5 and it is a whole community that is available for you and that is a great way. There's a Facebook page. Once you join , you can also join a Discord chat , which is a way a lot of us communicate with each other or even better yet , come to the opening game , any other games after that. And we're always around for somebody to say , hey , I want to join.

S14: All right. Amanda Troy , thanks again for joining us.

S18: Thank you so much for having us.

S12: Thank you , Jade.

S11: And if you want to learn.

S14: More about the sirens , as well as some other local soccer supporter groups , go to

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Images of the Sirens Supporters Group, an independent group supporting the women's professional soccer team, San Diego Wave FC.
Images of the Sirens Supporters Group, an independent group supporting the women's professional soccer team, San Diego Wave FC.

Midday Edition is back, connecting our communities through conversation. We are talking about friendship and its power to uplift us and even keep us healthy. We’ll hear what science says about friendship from the longest running research project on human happiness. Then, for kids it’s easy to make friends, for adults not so much. We’ll hear advice on making new friends and how to nurture existing friendships. And, we’ve heard joining a group is a great way to make friends. How one such San Diego group is finding connection and building community.


"When we step back and look at the common finding across hundreds of findings, it's relationships that drive our happiness and our health, our physical health as well."
Marc Schulz

Marc Schulz, Ph.D., is associate director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development , the longest running scientific study on happiness. He is also the co-author of the book, "The Good Life," and a professor of psychology at Bryn Mawr College.

Kat Vellos, is a certified connection coach and author of the book, "We Should Get Together: The Secret to Cultivating Better Friendships."

Amanda Farr and Troy Ford are members of the Sirens Supporters Group, an independent supporters group of the San Diego Wave FC women's professional soccer team.

In addition to the Sirens, other San Diego soccer supporters groups include The Locals and the Chavos de Loyal which each support the San Diego Loyal Soccer Club.