Welcome to Mindset Monday
Science shows that a sense of community is directly correlated to a longer, healthier and happier life.
A healthy diet and exercising usually pop into our minds when we think of healthy habits. Today, I want to talk about the fact that while a healthy diet and exercise are very important, oftentimes another vital part of health and wellness is overlooked. Social relationships and showing kindness to others are just as important to optimizing wellness. New research shows us that our relationships are an essential factor in our health. We are encouraged to prioritize staying connected, treating others with kindness and being involved with our community, if we want to live longer, healthier lives. Studies have found that the effects of healthy and supportive relationships are surprisingly strong.
Our state of mind has a direct impact on the biological processes in our body. Let’s take stress for instance; when we are stressed, our bodies experience a series of changes, which in turn activates the ‘fight or flight’ response in our cardiovascular system. Changes also extend to our immune system, causing inflammation. Social isolation/loneliness has been found to increase both cortisol (also known as the stress hormone) and inflammation.
On the other hand, making time to connect with others can help activate beneficial processes in our biological system, such as the release of oxytocin, which lowers cortisol, reduces pain and even changes how our brain responds to possible stressors. Oxytocin also promotes the growth of new brain cells!
Hugs are known to increase oxytocin levels (this one is for me – work in progress…?). Even eye contact can increase oxytocin levels.
How are you doing as far as social connections? Are you pretty much a loner (like me)? I have to admit that over the years I have seen the value and felt the positive impact of community. Whether colleagues, friends, or loved ones. I still like my own company ? but that does not negate the importance of social relationships. I am sure you have heard the saying ‘no man is an island’.
Spending quality time with friends and family and engaging in regular acts of kindness is equally as important as making a meal plan or training at the gym. Studies show that kind acts can effect changes in the way genes for our immune system are expressed. While this period of social distancing has impacted our social relationships; such relationships are essential for health and it is important to think about how to improve them. Reaching out to form new connections also holds the potential to improve well-being and longevity.
Do you know someone who lives alone? Or maybe there’s that individual who you haven’t seen or spoken with for some time? A friend, a colleague, a relative maybe any elderly aunt/uncle, cousin etc.? Why not take a few minutes to check-in and see how they are doing? Reaching out to someone can make that person feel seen, thought of and worth your while. Technology has afforded us so many ways to stay in touch. A few minutes to chat, a smile, a kind word or moral support in some way, shape or form can do wonders, for both the giver and the recipient. Make time to connect with the persons in your household (chatting, singing, dancing, playing games). I encourage you to find creative ways to improve close relationships as well. Staying connected with community yields huge benefits both ways!