This Harvard Study of nearly 80 years proves that joining & cultivating a supportive community helps us live longer & be happier.
I’m gonna kick it off like this:
“The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health,” said Robert Waldinger, director of the study, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”
Boom. Mic drop.
We all know the trifecta of eating clean, getting sleep, and keeping active are critical factors to our health. But did you consider that your habit of breaking plans with your girlfriends could actually be shortening your life and evoking more sad feelings than you may be comfortable with?
Check this out: “Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives,” the study revealed. The study also found that social ties:
- Protect people from life’s discontents
- Help to delay mental and physical decline
- Are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes
Simply put, if you want to reach your health goals, you must take care of the relationships in your life.
More Support of the Friendship-Wellness Correlation
Dr. Mark Hyman, Medical Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, Founder of The UltraWellness Center, and a 10-time No. 1 New York Times Bestselling author, has recently been quoted stating the following about how greatly our relationships impact our overall state of health:
- “While it might seem intimidating to branch out of loneliness, it can do wonders for your health, attitude, and mindset. Surrounding ourselves with people that ELEVATE us not only leads to a more FULFILLING life, it leads to a HEALTHIER and LONGER one too.”
- “Being connected to others is a necessary ingredient for health just like food, water, air, sleep or movement.”
- “Playfulness in adults is also linked to positive relationships, and you know I’m all about the benefits of social connections—we know that strong social ties and a sense of community also increase overall quality of health and longevity.“
- “Keeping your relationships strong keeps you strong. More and more research is showing that those with strong social connections benefit mentally, emotionally, and physically than those who are socially isolated.”
But Wait, There’s More??
Additionally, in my Professional Integrative Health Coaching studies at Duke Integrative Medicine, I learned that people with positive relationships are:
- More likely to live longer
- More likely to survive a heart attack
- Less likely to report being depressed
- Less likely to have a reoccurrence of cancer
- Less likely to develop dementia
- Are less susceptible to infectious illness
So what can we do with our relationships to get healthier, live longer, and be happier?
Take a relationship inventory. How are your friendships affecting your health – both positively & negatively? Some connections may bring love, light, energy and positivity. Others may cause you stress, anger, frustration or even jealousy. And too much of a bad thing (like unhappy feelings the majority of your days) leads to problems with your health.
Here are three strategies to develop & maintain strong relationships to support your health:
- Mix It Up: It’s good to have a variety of social outlets. Even if you don’t feel REALLY close to any one person in those groups, just the act of being around like-minded people who share similar interests and goals is good for your health.Take Action: Look into your local Newcomers group; is there a Mom Group you can join; does your fitness studio of choice host monthly events; join a small group in your church; or how about your kids’ school PTA; perhaps your work has a sports team.
- The Favorites: Be sure to have at least one or two CLOSE friends who you can turn to when you need support, encouragement, or just a sounding board.Take Action: This may be a friend from high school or college; perhaps someone you met in your neighborhood that you quickly grew close with; maybe there’s a new girl in town that joined your philanthropy group who’s looking for close friends as well.
- Life is Energy: Nurture the relationships that ENERGIZE you. If there are people who tend to suck the life right out of you, politely give them a, “Thank you, next,” and move along to the POSITIVE friendships that bring you LIFE and energy!Take Action: Which friends are encouraging you towards your health & wellness goals? Which relationships are not supportive of your professional dreams? Which groups bring you the most stress? Would you feel more connected if you spent more time with people who had similar spiritual beliefs?
Take time to really think this through.
Have a “check in” session with yourself where you simply sit in silence and think about your relationships.
- Which groups come up?
- Any person in particular?
- What feelings arise?
Keep a notebook nearby and jot down your thoughts, feelings, and what actions you might want to take next in order to live in your optimal state of health, wellness, and vitality.
If you’d like to dig even deeper, schedule a free 30-minute Wellness coaching session with me HERE and we’ll talk through which relationship might be an obstacle along your journey to health & happiness, and which may be your North Star.
Spark that vibe to attract your tribe,
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