How Relationships Impact Your Health

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

How to Add Meditation and Mindfulness Into Your New Year

A regular practice of meditation increases gray matter in your brain, which can help with decision-making, empathy, memory, and of course – improved mood and focus. (I write more about the topic here).

But how do we make it practical and work in our crazy, busy lives?

In this packed episode of the podcast, we cover the importance of mindfulness and meditation, why they help, and how to incorporate them into our daily lives. Colleen Long is President of Adventum Mental Health Network in East Texas.  She is a Registered 200 hour Yoga Teacher, Master Reiki Practitioner, and creator of all things Adventum.

She opens up and shares vulnerably about overcoming head trauma and grief and how quieting her mind changed her life and led her to start a movement for mental health in her East Texas community.

Download here or listen wherever you get podcasts!

Continue reading “How to Add Meditation and Mindfulness Into Your New Year”

Understanding the Mind/Body Connection on a Deeper Level

Matt Erb is a physiotherapist, senior faculty member with The Center for Mind Body Medicine, instructor at The Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine, and the Founder of Embody Your Mind, which specializes in high quality writing, teaching, and consulting in integrative and mind-body medicine topics.

In this episode we discuss the powerful mind/body connection and why we need to be listening to how our bodies handle our stressors.

img_1295

Key Topics:
– How he uses acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
– The principles of ACT
– Survival biology and the aversion response to pain or unpleasant sensations
– The importance of improving our relationship to things
– Biobehavioral patterns of seeking care and comfort and regulating our physiological state
– Understanding emotional eating
– How ACT can help us in our day to day? Who is this useful for?
– Mechanics of emotional eating, autonomic nervous system development
– Mind-body practices we all could incorporate right now

Continue reading “Understanding the Mind/Body Connection on a Deeper Level”