We talk a lot about fitness when it comes to our physical health, but have you ever been asked about your social fitness? More research is being done regarding how our social connections impact on our physical and mental well-being. We have learned from the Blue Zones research that those who had strong connections to family and friends lengthened their life and health span. Now, a new book titled, The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness, chronicles an 84-year and ongoing study of happiness and human development from Harvard. You can find a wonderful Ted Talk from researcher and author Dr. Robert Waldinger on the findings to date, but the research boils down to one main theme; good relationships keep us happier and healthier!
Of course, good relationships heighten happiness, but we might wonder how social connections enhance our physical health. Researchers believe that it is connected to the stress in our lives and how our warm relationships allow us to close the stress cycle. Can you recall a time when just sharing your frustration with a trusted person in your life allowed you to breathe easier and perhaps find a resolution to your problem? Having even one person in your life who you can count on as a sounding board can lead to greater health and happiness. This connection can be with a spouse, a friend, an acquaintance, or the mail carrier you wave at every day.
Even with the advances in our ability to connect with technology, humans are lonelier than ever. Loneliness and social isolation are a global pandemic according to the World Health Organization. Great Britain, Japan and Australia now have a Minister for Loneliness. The US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy has an incredible book on the subject titled, TOGETHER: Loneliness, Health and What Happens When We Find Connection. In his words, “while loneliness has the potential to kill, connection has even more potential to heal.
Many of us have struggled to reconnect after the Covid isolation, particularly those who are introverts by nature. But extended social isolation, in the long run, just might be more detrimental to our health than the pandemic itself. So how do we begin to improve our social fitness? Begin with asking yourself a few questions.
Do I have the social connections I want and need?
Do I have at least one person who I could call in the middle of the night if I needed help? (Sadly, many married people answered NO to this question)
Do I make social connections a priority in my life?
Who might need me as a sounding board right now?
What groups or clubs am I interested in to get connected to like-minded people?
Remember, just like plants in the garden, relationships wither from neglect. Choose your relationships wisely and choose to be with people who matter. I want to challenge you to flex your social fitness muscle TODAY by contacting one person that you have been thinking about and let them know you care. You will be enhancing your life and theirs.
Blessings and Live Well ~ Coach Linda