Spending quality time with friends and family lately has inspired me to share some more with all of you about the importance of friendship and social support networks to our health. I’ve been reading some interesting research about loneliness and isolation and the detrimental effects they have on our health. Here’s an excerpt from a recent article by Mark Sisson (click to see entire article) on the subject: “Studies have linked loneliness and social isolation to everything from cancer to cardiovascular disease, inflammation to immune issues. Additionally, loneliness can cause us to develop excessive reactivity to stress and throw our cortisol levels as well as our blood pressure into unhealthy territory. Its negative health impact is reportedly on par with that of smoking in terms of mortality risk. On the less immediately dire but disturbing end of things, it appears to set us up for pain, fatigue and depression.”
This summer I was on a flight to visit my daughter in Minneapolis had a very interesting conversation with a woman in the seat next to me. She was a MD; an oncologist at Mayo Clinic and had just presented a paper on cancer at a conference at Fred Hutchinson in Seattle. Her husband was a cardiac surgeon at Mayo in Rochester MN as well. They were both from India. I asked her if they were planning on staying in the US. She said that as much as they liked it here they wanted to go back to India because they missed their family so much. She told me how families there usually have several generations all living together. She said her parents missed not having them and their two children there with them. She couldn’t get used to how fragmented families were here, and told me she was really surprised at how many of our seniors end up alone in nursing homes. To them the value of strong family ties were much greater than the money and lifestyle they could have if they chose to stay here. Research backs up the idea that meaningful relationships reduce stress and improve health.
This TED talk by Kelly McGonigal challenges the conventional wisdom about stress. It’s well worth the time to watch, and as you will see fits right into our discussion about the importance of strong social ties to our health.
If you think you feel lonely and isolated I strongly encourage you to build a social network of people who you might share common interests with. We have some wonderful resources right here in Anacortes. Check out the Anacortes Center for Happiness. They sponsor all sorts of activities to spread the message of positive human potential, and it’s a great place to meet people who can support your journey towards better health.
Our practice is committed to supporting you in wahtever way we can. Ask us about resources for social connections and we’ll try to connect you with like minded people.
Let’s Stay Connected
While I do have my doubts about social media as a substitute for meaningful face to face interaction, I think it is a great way to share information. I don’t believe social media will or should ever take the place of face to face interaction. We lose physical contact ,the emotions, and the body and facial language that make those interactions so meaningful. As important as social interaction is, some solitude or down time is equally important. This is much different than isolation, as this great article in Scientific American describes.
That being said, I am dedicated to providing you with current information, educational and motivational tips about health not only through our website, but also through frequent posts on our practice Facebook page. Just click on the Facebook icon on the lower part of the website homepage and click Like on the page, and you’ll be notified about our postings to this page. I promise to send you good stuff! Also you can now follow us on Google + as well by clicking on The G+ icon at the bottom of the home page. Google + will give us the ability to share live online events with you such as live talks by myself and guest speakers, which we plan to begin in the near future.
So I’d like to leave you with one idea: We are all connected, we are all in this human experience together, so let’s share it with each other!