The quality of our relationships and building communities around us, ensuring that we have strong, regular connection with real people is perhaps the most important thing we can do for our health.
After listening to one of Wellness Mama’s podcasts about the importance of having communities in our lives, and how they impact our health, I was intrigued to learn more about how to develop authentic relationships in a world so technologically “connected,” but, at the same time, so disconnected from real human contact.
Katie and Heather shared how having authentic relationships with friends, family, and loved ones (which they refer to as “communities”) was one of, if not the most, important factors to achieving optimal health.
Having supportive, loving, fulfilling relationships in our lives was even said to be “more important than quitting smoking,” and twice as important than regular exercise. In fact, a lack of genuine, authentic relationships is actually correlated with a much higher chance of dying with depression.
Why Relationships Are So Important
In our modern world, we’re surrounded by technology. At the touch of a button we have access to countless social media sites that allow us to connect, and stay connected with thousands of “friends” and communities online all around the world. But this can come at the detriment of real human connection. Having strong, regular connection with real people is perhaps the most important thing we can do for our health. Not having these strong connections and relationships has been linked to early death, a higher risk of a heart attack, and much more.
We’re at risk even if we don’t feel lonely. While we may feel “connected” with constant access to social media, it isn’t the same as having personal contact… Not even close.
In an Instagram post by Shawn Stevenson, he shares the findings of Harvard psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr. Robert Waldinger, the director of the longest running longitudinal study in documented human history:
The study, spanning nearly nine decades, is the most detailed study on what creates health, happiness, and fulfillment in the lives of humans. This remarkable study uncovered a plethora of surprising outcomes!
Dr. Waldinger and his fellow researchers (including the directors who were at the helm of the study before he was even born) found that, yes, good nutrition, exercise, and a sense of purpose are all key ingredients in longevity. But the thing that stood out most prominently, the thing that was determined to be the NUMBER ONE most influential factor on human longevity, is the quality of our relationships.
This further illustrates how important relationships are, particularly the quality of our relationships, in determining our overall health and longevity.
Here are some practical ways to foster real authentic relationships in an increasingly digital world.
How to Build a Community Around You
Loneliness can have serious health effects including an increase in the production of cortisol (the stress hormone) and inflammation, which can contribute to diabetes, heart disease, and dementia.
With society being what it is today; fast-paced and constantly focused on “the next thing”, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily tasks we “need” to do, and end up not actually connecting with anyone the whole day (who else has been guilty of this?).
So what are we to do?
I’m sure we’d all like the answer to that (let me know once you’ve figured it out), but for the meantime, here are some simple ideas to get started:
- Schedule a regular catch up or night out with friends and invest time in your social circle.
- Do a technology detox
- Commit to enjoying a regular dinner together (at least once a week) to connect with friends and/or family. If dinnertime doesn’t suit because of schedules, try a different mealtime (like brunch or lunch), or have a tea together when you both/all have some free time.
- Commit to setting aside an hour a day to spend quality time together as a family. The aim is just to have fun together.
Reshape Our Communities
Research seems to tells us that exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet just isn’t enough when stress is overcoming our lives and community connection is virtually non-existent.
In my humble opinion, I say let’s bring back the dinner parties, picnics out in nature, fancy dress parties, board game nights, and actual time off to spend with loved ones. Let’s be present. Turn off our phones and give our full attention to the people we’re with.
The following quote by Brené Brown that Katie and Heather shared during the podcast, sums up why we as human beings need, or better yet, crave, human interaction in order to live a full, happy, healthy life:
“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”
Social media has become a huge part of how we interact on a daily basis. While this has enabled us to stay connected and form new relationships with people we would otherwise have never met all around the globe, it has come at a cost. We spend less and less time face-to-face with friends, family, and loved ones. Less time building and strengthening relationships which are truly important to us. We’re seeing younger generations missing out on learning and practicing key skills needed to communicate and socialise effectively with others on a face-to-face level. On top of that, we compare ourselves to other people’s “personas” that they portray on the internet, which often aren’t true perceptions of their real life at all, but illusions.
So, rather than looking to social media as a way of forming communities and relationships around you, look to meeting up with friends in person and going on coffee dates, having dinner together as a family, or setting time aside each week or month to catch up with those close to you. This is how you will form true, supportive and fulfilling relationships in your life.
Blue Zones are a perfect example of how fostering a sense of community around us can help in prolonging our life span!
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. I am not a doctor. All opinions expressed are my own personal thoughts and feelings of the products mentioned. Check with your doctor or health practitioner if you are uncertain about trying out any of the products, recipes or tips mentioned in this post.
What are some of the things you do to build authentic relationships in your life? Share in the comments below.
Lots of love,