It’s February, the month of loooooove, so I can’t NOT talk about the importance of relationships to your overall well-being.
While loneliness is just as detrimental to your health as smoking, there are numerous studies showing that having healthy relationships increase your quality of life and longevity! Those with social support have better mental health, cardiovascular health, immune system function, and cognitive ability.
In fact, a study spanning eight decades of research at Harvard, proved that close social connections are better indicators of health and lonevity than anything else.
Our relationships with others are PRIMARY NUTRITION.
What you put inside your mouth may cause a temporary shift in your body’s digestive processes, but being in a stressful, unhealthy relationship – or being in isolation – can be a chronic stressor that causes permanent dysfunction to your entire body.
Why is that? I have a few thoughts.
- When a body is in “fight or flight” mode from stress, it is impossible to access the prefrontal cortex in the brain to make clear decisions, show empathy, connect to others, regulate emotions, be open-minded, and control impulses. So for someone who is under chronic relationship stress, or under stress from isolation and loneliness, it is possible that they will struggle with making good choices when it comes to health and well-being. They will literally be in survival mode, taking the easy way out, time and time again, because their brain can’t offer any other solution.
- Another possible reason stressful relationships wreck physical health is because it increases the amount of cortisol pumped into the bloodstream. Where there is cortisol imbalance, there is inflammation. Where there is inflammation, there is chronic disease and lack of health.
- Stress destroys digestion. When digestion is altered, your body can’t utilize nutrients from food or restore bacterial balance in the gut, which is so needed for mental and physical health.
I encourage you to make the effort to strengthen the relationships you have.
Maybe that means seeing a marriage counselor, or finding an individual counselor for yourself to deal with your past hurts in relationships. Maybe you need to call up an old friend or schedule a dinner date with someone you care about but haven’t had time to see lately. If you’re married, plan an intentional date night (you know, something different than turning on Netflix after the kids go to bed).
Take time to nourish your relationships this month. Your health and theirs depend on it.
*If you are looking for a professional therapist to support your healing journey, check out Talkspace and use the code sparkingwholeness for $100 off your first month of therapy.