It’s the time of year when we reflect on our lives and spend as much time as we can with loved ones. While we may make sure never to take for granted the time we get to spend with them, there are several added health and vitality benefits that should encourage us to seek and maintain healthy social relationships, especially as we get older. After all, a healthy diet and exercise regimen can only do so much to further our total health quest. Without the psychological, spiritual refreshment of sharing the experience of existence with others, our mission to live a fulfilled life is destined to fall short. So make 2017 about cultivating and growing your relationships. Here are four benefits of social wellness to consider in the new year.
Better Heart Health
The heart is the engine that drives our lives forward, so a healthy heart is essential to living in total wellness. What you may not know is that how you feel about your social life affects your heart’s health. In one study, the social problem of loneliness can raise blood pressure to unsafe levels. According to the study, loneliness affected systolic blood pressure “independent of age, gender, race or ethnicity, cardiovascular risk factors, medications, health conditions, and the effects of depressive symptoms, social support, perceived stress, and hostility.” Regular, meaningful interactions with others bring a sense of purpose and belonging that allows our bodies to relax, thrive, and retain their youthfulness.
People who feel more socially connected are less likely to suffer from negative immune responses. Studies have shown that stress from loneliness has an adverse effect on the body’s defenses. In fact, social stress causes pain much like the pain caused by physical maladies, such as disease and injury.
Having a good social safety net can help fight off depression in aging adults. In one study, subjects who considered their relationships with members of their families to be good had half as much risk for depression as those who saw themselves in failing or degrading relationships. Maintaining healthy, positive connections can help keep depression at bay.
When we age, our bodies naturally lose some of their function, but engaging with others has been shown to slow down this process. Staying socially connected has proven to be an effective combatant against memory loss and motor skill deterioration, allowing us to age gracefully. But having meaningful relationships later in life doesn’t just add to the quality of life. It has also been shown that doing so improves longevity. Research conducted on perceived connectedness and mortality demonstrates that those who feel less integrated into a social group have a higher rate of mortality.
As the busy holiday season passes, it can be easy to settle into an isolated routine. While you may find some peace and quiet away from the crowd, consider how that isolation is affecting your health. Cultivating the relationships you have to improve your overall health can be as easy as making a phone call or knocking on your neighbor’s door. Your health is psychological and emotional as well as physical, so remember to exercise and nourish your relationships as well as your body. For more information on how to keep feeling your best, attend one of our clinics.