Hello ... Is It Me You're Looking For?
A happy, healthy Hello! I am waist-deep in the Nurse Coaching Program I'm taking. Some things are familiar and others are wonderfully new. This past week we explored what it takes to have a long, healthy, vibrant life. This is a topic near and dear to my heart and I immersed myself in the material, heart and soul.
I am so excited to share some of the more recent research with you. It makes so much sense, yet not always something we strive to create or recognize as essential.
A very interesting study was started in 1938, The Adult Development Study, and it continues 84 years later! 268 Harvard students and 456 young men from inner city Boston (Massachusetts) were enlisted to investigate "what keeps us healthy and happy". At first, the participants predicted it would be wealth and high achievement. However, over the years, what's been revealed is that "good, close relationships are good for our health and well-being", above all else. Robert Waldinger is the fourth director of this endeavor and he states in his TEDx Talk a few years ago that "loneliness kills". He goes on to report that "it's not just the friends that you have, but the quality of the friendship/relationship" that's important. Part of the research showed that memory and cognitive ability remained sharper in those who had someone they could count on and who were socially engaged
Along similar lines, psychologist and author Susan Pinker traveled to Sardinia, Italy to study a place that has the most centenarians of all five "Blue Zone" parts of the world and even more impressive, men and women have equal lifespans. The Blue Zones are areas in the world demarcated by Giovanni Pes, Michel Poulain, and Dan Buettner and significant for having healthy populations with increased longevity. In Sardinia, Ms. Pinker observed that no one is ever "left to live a solitary life". They are surrounded by family, friends, the grocer, barkeeper, priest, and neighbors from birth until death.
In her TEDx Talk, Ms. Pinker cites the work of Julianne Holt-Lunstad at Brigham Young University. Over seven years Dr. Holt-Lunstad studied the question, "What reduces our chances of dying [young] the most?". The results were unexpected. The three most important factors were:
Quit smoking and drinking
Have close relationships
The last one listed carried the most weight in influencing the quality of our lives. In other words, how much do you interact with people during the day? Do you talk to or even acknowledge the barista, cashier, or anyone else you might meet? When we have a face-to-face connection with others it releases a flood of neurotransmitters including oxytocin, which lowers cortisol, and dopamine, which gives us a "high" and lowers our pain levels.
I hope you're still with me on this! Here are just a few more fascinating facts:
Genes can account for only 25% and Lifestyle 75% for a good, long life
In-person friendships create a biological force field against disease and decline
It only takes three deep relationships for the magic to happen, although I would venture to say, the more, the merrier!
The past couple of years have taken their toll for many in this area of connection. Nearly 25% of the population report "no one to talk to". Some research says that many spend up to eleven hours on their cell phones, scrolling social media, writing texts, and conducting business. FaceTime and Zoom is better than nothing, but it's still hard to look someone in the eyes and truly bond on those formats. Susan Pinker explained it concisely, "Social Isolation is the public health risk of our time.".
My suggestion is to cultivate, nourish, and, if necessary, repair your relationships. It takes a little effort and some work to foster and protect them -- it's worth it. Say "hello" to everyone you meet and look at people as you interact with them. As Susan Pinker states, "In the long run, we are better protected by social contact than we are by medicine.". Go out, be friendly, and be care-full.
I'd love it if you'd like to say "hello" to me! Email me and we can have a complementary Discovery Session to see what it would take for you to live a happier, healthier life.
Happy Healthy Habit Hump Day,