The lack of connection has been multi-factorial: COVID and travel and social isolation, starting a business, parenting during a pandemic etc. In response, I’ve reached out to many of my friends and have had some wonderful conversations. I already feel happier and more connected and I’ve only talked with a few so far.
The last two years have been rough on health in many ways. I often talk about the four pillars of health: Sleep, Stress, Nutrition/Microbiome and Exercise. Moving forward, I’m going to add a fifth pillar which is social connection. Strong relationships and social support are just as important for our health. Not only does it feel good, there is a lot of evidence out there to back it up.
The Blue Zones are the five places around the world where people consistently live to over 100 years old. One of the primary factors that contributes to this longevity is social connection.
A 2010 meta-analysis study of 300,000 people found that having strong social support is a greater predictor of longevity than physical activity, air pollution or smoking.
Studies have shown that socially isolated people have a higher risk of chronic illness and death, even after controlling for factors like alcohol consumption, smoking and overall physical health.
Conversely, strong social networks increase longevity and improve immune, cardiovascular, endocrine and mental health. Love increases oxytocin, dopamine and human growth hormone. All of these potent chemicals make us feel great and heal better.
All organisms from single celled organisms to humans exist in community. Our hunter-gather ancestors lived in this way and we evolved in an environment where we maintained close contact with one another.
Sadly, these tight-knit social communities are no longer present for many of us and the pandemic has worsened the situation.
The good news is we can foster community and increase our own wellness and those around us. So how about picking up your gadget and starting the ripple effect right now? Reach out to someone you care about and let them know you’re thinking about them and re-connect.