Reasons to Get Social: The Correlation Between Our Health and Relationships

It was my birthday last week and as such, I contemplated which activity would give me the most satisfaction and provide me with a lasting memory.  Other than venturing to the movies to soak up the last Harry Potter movie installment (it’s release date was the same day as my date of birth- score!), I thought of all my family members and friends who make my life truly worthwhile and whom provide me with happiness each and every day.  I concluded that the celebration of my birthday was really a celebration of them, because seriously, I wouldn’t be my happy, healthy self without these people in my life.  I realize this is a pretty sappy thought, but it’s an objective truth.  It then dawned on me that the best birthday activity I could do was take a seat and begin writing cards to the people I appreciate in my life and tell them why they are so special to me.  Instead of relishing the thought of people writing cards to me and giving me gifts, I wanted to do this for others.  Admittedly, the Harry Potter movie was thrilling, witty, and had terrific special effects, but I had just as much fun, if not more so, shopping for presents for my friends and family. I dare say it’s one of the coolest birthday ideas I’ve ever had. 

Okay so what does my birthday idea have to do with nutrition and health and why blog about my birthday revelation on DiseaseProof? Well I’ve got a whopping lot of reasons. Our health is influenced by many things, diet being one of the most important.  Yet, what would we have to live for if not for the other people in our lives and the meaning and joy we get from those relationships? The relationships we have with others are a significant part of our well-being and status as healthy, vibrant, disease-free individuals.  We could eat the most nutrient dense diet in the world, but die a lonely, likely premature death simply by being a hermit.  The people in our lives give us reason to want to be disease free and in turn, the act of having relationships themselves help keep us healthy. 

Research shows just this.  Loving relationships have an extraordinary ability to prevent stress-induced illness, significantly contribute to healing and repair from injury and inflammation, and add years to our lives.  I know the influence of relationships on our health might seem like an awfully cumbersome subject to study given their variability, intangibility and uniqueness, but researchers in the field of positive psychology have managed to make some fantastically impressive headway.  Take, for example, a study of almost ten thousand healthy married men at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.  The researchers found that the men with high risk factors for heart disease, like elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and electrocardiogram abnormalities, were more than twenty times as likely to develop angina (chest pain indicating heart disease) during the next five years.  But get this, all the men were asked, “Does your wife show you her love?” and those men than answered “yes” had less heart disease even when they had high levels of risk factors.  

Stress is known to be a slow grim reaper.  People who experience high stress levels at work, with finances, their health, or through toxic relationships have a greater risk of dying than those who maintain a stress free existence.  However, relationships have been shown to mitigate the negative health consequences of a high stress lifestyle. Yet another study was conducted demonstrating that people who report to have a dependable network of intimacy- a spouse, family members or close friends- were shown to be buffered against the negative health effects of stress and, under these supportive conditions, there turned out to be no relationship whatsoever between high stress levels and premature death.

Apparently I was onto something with my birthday celebration idea and its ability to uplift my spirits.  We should all acknowledge the people who contribute to our lives as much as we can and tell them how much they mean to us; it is a two way reward system which affords benefits to our happiness levels, and  to prosperous health.  To all of you on the journey to beaming health and a disease-free existence, seek out people who show that they care about you, care about your health, and support your healthy eating lifestyle.  Your body will thank you just like it thanks you with every wholesome bite of salad.  Each and every day, not just on one’s birthday, it is a great idea to recognize how much friends and family members make every year true gifts.    

Happiness, it's Spreading!

You may want to make nice-nice with the bubbly lady in your office now. Because according to a new study in the British Medical Journal happiness is contagious. Researchers reveal people with the most social-connections, like friends, spouses, relatives and neighbors, were the happiest and if your social-contact is also happy, you are 15% more likely to be happy; Reuters reports.