How Social Connections Can Improve Physical Health
Human beings are very social creatures.
That is why social interactions play a significant role for us and in our physical health. When you experience hardship and difficulties in your life, it can be tempting to withdraw from your friends and family – isolating yourself.
However, there is increasing evidence that you should actually do the exact opposite. Surrounding yourself with the love and support of others can actually improve your physical health… even if socialising is the last thing you feel like doing!
Let’s look into this in a bit more detail.
How Social Connections Can Help Physical Health
Research indicates that regular social activities have a surprising range of benefits for your health, both physically and mentally.
Here are just a few of the most interesting findings:
● A 2001 medical study indicated there is a connection between social isolation and coronary artery disease.
● This research is not new. In fact, an older study from 1988 found that lack of social interaction is actually more harmful than obesity or smoking. This piece of research also found that people who scored low on their social network index had double the mortality risk as those who were higher on the index.
So, we know that there is an increasingly convincing link between a healthy social life and better health in general. The question is, how exactly does friendship help?
Friendships Encourage Good Habits
You will have heard of the terms good and bad influences. They are used so regularly in conversation that you don’t bat an eyelid when people say them.
These terms have become such a common part of speech because they are true. The people you spend the most time with can influence your way of thinking, the things you do, and how you do them.
Your friends can influence you in many different ways. These can be big or small, and you may not even be completely aware of them.
● When you witness friends eating healthier and exercising, you are more likely to do the same or join in with them.
● If your friends and family are talking and sharing, then you will feel encouraged to share your experiences and get things off your chest.
● When you have friendships in the workplace, you are more likely to be happy in your work and less stressed.
Close friendships and family relationships play a critical role in your mental health and wellbeing. Your mental well being is directly connected to your physical well being.
Social Connection Combats Stress
Stress is a common yet debilitating condition. Stress is there for a reason – throughout human history, it has been essential for our survival. The hypothalamus sends out the alarm bells via our stress hormones to alert us of danger and activate our “fight or flight” response.
But we tend not to be chased by predators so much any more! Instead, stress imposes on our modern lives for other reasons. When you experience increased and extended episodes of stress (for example, when dealing with a distressing life event) the physical impacts on your body is quite severe.
They might include:
● High blood sugar and/or blood pressure
● Heart palpitations and risk of heart attack
● A headache and stomach ache
● A weakened immune system
Having people you can rely on to help you through these periods of increased stress is incredibly beneficial. Your friends and family might not be able to cure an illness or solve a problem at work, but they can be compassionate and empathetic and support you through the process. This can, in turn, lower your stress level, increase endorphins (the “feel good” hormone), and increase your chances of good health.
How Can You Do It…
Face-to-face contact is best. Nothing beats the nearby physical and calming presence of someone you love dearly.
But catching up in person can sometimes prove difficult, as everyone is leading increasingly busy lives. Social media and cell phones are becoming the norms for communicating. When possible, make time to catch up with people in person as much as you can. For those in-between times, a text message or quick phone call can also do the world of good.
If you don’t have many of your friends and family close by, or you simply love to meet new people, then so another option can be looking for support groups and/or community groups to join.
If you can’t be near your loved ones as they traverse a life-changing situation, then you can still offer your support through Swathe.me by making a charitable donation directly to the individual. Find out more information on our website: https://swathe.me/charitable-trust/