If I were to tell you about a new medication that relieves pain, reduces stress & anxiety, lessens your risk for type 2 diabetes, helps improve memory, increases longevity, and enhances overall life satisfaction, would you drop your to-do list and rush to phone your doctor’s office for a prescription? According to an article on Medical News Today, social interactions can result in all those benefits and more.
According to Dean Ornish, MD, whose Program for Reversing Heart Disease has been covered by Medicare since 2011, no other lifestyle factor has a greater impact on our quality of life, incidence of illness and premature death from all causes than loneliness and isolation. The real epidemic in our culture is not only physical heart disease, but also what I call emotional and spiritual heart disease, Dr. Ornish explains.
A write-up from Harvard Health informs us that scientists are finding social connections not only give us pleasure, they also influence our long-term health in ways every bit as powerful as adequate sleep, a good diet, and not smoking. The article goes on to say that caring involvement with others may be one of the easiest health strategies to access. It’s inexpensive, it requires no special equipment or regimen, and we can engage in it in many ways.
A Psychology Today article says that engaging socially not only lessens feelings of depression, but also helps you fight off colds, the flu, and even some types of cancer. I’d say that’s some pretty strong medicine!
Dan Buettner, in writing The Blue Zones of Happiness, reviewed various polls and surveys from countries around the world to discover the factors that contribute to making the happiest populations. Costa Rica, he found, is one of the countries whose citizens reported being the most content. He attributes this to their focus on spending a great deal of time with others. Costa Ricans are socially interacting five to six hours a day, face to face, he writes, including barbecues with friends, church services, family meals, and soccer games. The U.S., with its rigorous work philosophy, did not make the top 12 in Buettner’s tally.
Being outside is the easiest way for me to feel part of a physical community. I find open-air concerts absolutely exhilarating. And time outdoors with friends, food, and drink is one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon. But even strangers who are hiking, biking, fishing, or sitting in a park are often cheerfully willing to engage in conversation. According to an Evidence Note from Forest Research in the UK, green infrastructure can help bring people together, . . . increasing social activity, improving community cohesion, & developing local attachment. These benefits, the research says, reduce domestic violence and overall crime rates. It’s no surprise that spending time in the embrace of our Primal Mother brings us together in a way that makes us more tolerant, loving, and supportive.
Social interactions can contribute immeasurably to our lives, helping us feel better about ourselves, enhancing immune function, and prolonging our lives. Focusing less on life’s never-ending to-do list and more on sharing time with others is a sure way to increase happiness. How often are you willing to become happier?
The need for connection and community is primal, as fundamental as the need for air, water, and food. ~Dean Ornish, MD
Blessings for Community,
The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.