While once upon a time we focused on living a long life or a healthy life. Now we are now more focused on the idea of living a healthy life to enjoy our twilight years properly. Typically, when we think of what we need to do to maintain our health we look out our diet, we consider how much we exercise, and maybe think about our sleeping habits.
Those are all wonderful places to start, and they are absolutely important to your overall health at every stage of your life. There is one thing, though, that we don’t pay enough attention to and that is our human connections. Building strong relationships with family and friends is important at every age. Increasingly so as we get older. It can help us age healthily and even extend our lifespan.
Harvard has been running an ongoing research study that involves thousands of men. It started eight decades ago and some of the original participants are still taking part, now well into their 90s (Harvard Study Of Adult Development).
George Vaillant, a Psychiatrist, and one of the researchers in the Harvard Study say, “When the study began, nobody cared about empathy or attachment. But the key to healthy aging is relationships, relationships, relationships.”
The participants went through blood samples and brain scans, answering questions about their home lives as well as their working life, emotional wellness, and mental health. The researchers then branched out to speak to the children and spouses of these men taking part.
The results haven’t been swayed by the men’s childhoods or what tribulations and triumphs they have gone through. What has helped them maintain their happiness and influenced their health has all boiled down to just one thing – their relationships or more specifically the happiness that comes from them.
The key to healthy aging is relationships, relationships, relationships.”
In the years of the study, researchers have found that people who build strong social connections will live a life that is longer, healthier, and happier when compared to those who fail to retain ties to friends and family. That doesn’t mean any relationship will do, though.
Staying in stressful marriages with a lot of conflicts is naturally bad for anyone’s health. However, Harvard’s researchers discovered that people in satisfying relationships when they’re 50 are the happiest and healthiest when they reach the age of 80. Even during days of extreme physical pain, their mood was able to stay up.
There’s another important aspect of solid relationships that we must touch on – cognitive function. It’s natural for older people to experience a decline in their memory, yet in this study, those in happy relationships and with strong social connections are able to maintain their memory for longer.
So you can see relationships and authentic, caring relationships can help you remain young in mind, body, and heart!!! Here are my top 5 things that will happen when you improve your relationships!
1. Oxytocin Boosts
This feel-good hormone is released when we experience physical touch with the people we care about, that may be why it’s referred to as the cuddle chemical. It’s something that is triggered even when we spend time with our pets.
While it may be best known for its appearance after intercourse, there is an abundance of it in your body when you’re spending time with friends and family that you enjoy, too. It doesn’t just improve your mood, though, it also relieves aches and pains, boosts energy levels, reduces stress and it provides your immune system with a healthy bump. More about that here.
Perhaps a more important note to make is that while oxytocin has a positive effect on your overall health, loneliness can increase your blood pressure.
2. Strong Brain Health
This includes common sense, knowledge, and alertness. It’s something that we generally cultivate with culture, books, music, and formal education. However, you can also learn from the people that you surround yourself with. You may have your own curiosity driving you to learn more, but certainly, we are also prompted by the connections that we make.
We spend time communicating with others, learning from them, opening up and seeking out new information. Whether it’s due to brainstorming or a genuine curiosity to learn more about a subject a friend has brought up. This all feeds our capacity to expand our minds.
3. Enjoy Emotional Health
Studies indicate that people are less likely to suffer from depression when they maintain strong social connections. Of course, one of the main aspects of maintaining connections is that we are able to healthily manage our emotions. Building friendships and romantic relationships help us develop our social skills, yes, but beyond that it allows us to experience reading social cues, practicing empathy, and being an overall better person. These are all important skills when dealing with others.
4. Improve Your Spiritual Health
While not everyone is spiritual and those who practice it in different ways, maintaining friendships is good for your spirit. Let’s be honest… people are the worst (and the best, in a complicated twist in nature) and as great as we can be, we also tend to hurt others, we are annoyed, and we are all imperfect.
We are all guilty of letting people down. We make assumptions, set unrealistic expectations, and often demand more than we should. It’s fair to say that we have all done it. Those who are able to build successful connections are more likely to be generous, accepting, patient, and forgiving. These are important aspects of any relationship, moreover, by communicating your gratitude you are improving your brain’s ability to change based on experiences. This is a benefit that you can gain from enjoying your friendships, but also from practicing mindfulness.
5. Boost Your Social Health
When you spend a lot of time with close friends you realize that you can support them without trying to fix their problems. You can show warmth and empathy without trampling over their privacy. It’s even possible to deal with conflict without damaging your connection to others.
Setting boundaries is important and the more adhere to them the stronger your relationships become. Boundaries benefit more than your social health. Every interaction you have, whether at home, in the community or at work, is more meaningful.
You know what you should do to stay healthy, at least you think you do… a lot of information we’re given is conflicting. However, something that we hear consistently is that building healthy social connections is vital to your overall health and wellness. Learn more about healthy romance and relationships here.
In my next post, I will address some more benefits for cultivating healthy relationships with others and most importantly yourself! Book your discovery call today!
Suzanne is a certified holistic life and business coach, positive psychology practitioner, author, speaker and total comedian. After careers in the dental field, then building a 7 figure retail chain and developing businesses retail… Finding passion in aromatherapy, nutrition and fitness but then burning out, Suzanne decided it was time to follow her heart and create the life she truly desired, with a business that enables her to work on her terms, follow her passions and help high-level clients to gain the clarity, connection and power to access and step into their full potential with maximum health and limitless energy. In less than 5 years Suzanne created a dream mentoring practice, while raising her son and spending more time doing the things she loves. Now guiding others to consciously create the success and fulfillment they dream of. Suzanne is currently based in USA, New Jersey but travels often for business and pleasure. When not running her business Suzanne often will be mixing and blending essential oils or creating magic in the kitchen, and she enjoys being outdoors and in nature in her spare time, paddle-boarding, biking and on adventures with her family. Prosperity Coaching & Consulting Moving Forward with Hope