Turns out, relationships -- interactions with your family or friends -- can change your physical chemistry in ways we never imagined. There are stunning effects on your long-term physical health -- a reduced risk of stroke and heart attack, for instance. And the effects on your brain are even greater! Your risk of Alzheimer's falls dramatically with social connection. And areas of your brain that can atrophy with loneliness and depression actually show re-growth with social connection, warmth, and engagement.
Friends and family can be your most powerful resource. Meaningful engagement with your community is also important. It can be an effective substitute for closer social ties if you've let go of those kinds of connections over the years.
Take a hard look at your social connections. Examine whether or not you are as deeply and meaningfully engaged as you really want it to be. If not, take steps today to change that! With all the social media available today, you can find friends you haven't been in touch with for decades. Reach out to the people around you and gain an understanding of your community's needs. This can give you opportunities to be involved and more widely connected with others.
Make this your project for today! Reach out to people you have lost touch with. Start making plans to get together on a regular basis. Take a close look at how you can volunteer and help others. Your altruism could have a wonderful effect on your biology.
Thanks Dr Lodge. Great advice! On the other end of the token, if a friend or acquaintance always leaves you feeling icky or negative, reduce your time spent with them, or consider "breaking off" the relationship! Those negative feelings have a big impact on health as well. Gravitate towards healthy and loving relationships.
The best example of what you're describing? Doctors
"...Forty-six percent of physicians experience at least one symptom of serious burnout, such as emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and a low sense of personal accomplishment, according to a June 2011 survey of 7,288 doctors nationwide. The findings were published in the Oct. 8 Archives of Internal Medicine..."
A get together with friends is tough for me now that I have two little kids and a full time job. Much easier to stay home with the family in my PJs. But when the husband and I rally and hang out with other families, it's like an anti-depressant!
Thank you for the reminder about volunteering - I'm going to look into some opportunities over the holidays for my family to give back.
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