As we begin a New Year, we have renewed focus on what's important. There is no better time than now to focus on our health. One very important area of both our physical and mental health is our social connectedness to others.
Anthropologically, humans have always been social animals: hunting, gathering, traveling and living together. Being part of the social group was in essence survival, and separation from the group often meant a literal death. Today, living alone no longer means a literal death, but social isolation can contribute to less than optimal health both physically and mentally.
The benefits of social connectedness cannot be overstated. Many scientific studies point to the importance of social connections as a very important determinant of health – alongside body weight, smoking status and blood pressure. Strong social connections decrease the incidence of anxiety and depression, and research has pointed to a longer lifespan in individuals with stronger social relationships. Studies are also focusing on social isolation and risk factors for dementia, as well as decreased immunity.
The experience of loneliness is powerful and increasingly common in modern society. The impact of social media in lieu of face to face interactions – as well as the fact that many families reside far away from extended family of origin – have changed the landscape of social connections. Individuals can certainly experience loneliness even residing with other individuals. The genuine, and at times vulnerable, sharing of one’s individual life experience and resonating with another is the key to connectedness.
The willingness to reboot, risk and open oneself to share human experience is necessary to create these rich connections. The desire for connection and bonding is in our human DNA and this instinct benefits our “surviving and thriving.” So the next time an opportunity arises to join another human for a coffee, take a walk, or to share something genuine about your life experience, you may consider saying “yes” to this healthy, natural desire. The bonds that you may cultivate are a natural remedy that will benefit the precious “Mind-Body” you.