Did you know that going to cocktail parties, joining a book club, or catching up with friends over coffee could help you reduce chronic inflammation and improve your lifespan?
Well, it’s true!
As an anthropologist and a physician, I learned long ago that human beings are truly pack animals that depend on each other for survival.
And now, modern science is starting to catch on to this important idea…
In fact, a recent analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that building strong social connections has major health benefits—including lowering your risk of chronic inflammation.
In another study, researchers found that people in positive, close, social relationships show a lower risk of heart disease compared to those involved in negative social relationships. So, it’s time to say “goodbye” to those pessimistic and one-sided connections.
Though, there are a few caveats we should note about the benefits of spending time with other people…
Caregivers carry a big burden
I’ve talked before about the extra stress placed on caregivers. Yes, they have a lot of social interaction with the people they care for. But they don’t get many personal breaks or see many other people—which can be stressful and detrimental to your health.
In fact, in a recent study, older caregivers who experienced “caregiver stress” had a 63 percent higher risk of dying compared to non-caregivers. So, if you’re the primary caregiver for a parent, spouse, or child, be sure to take care of yourself too.
“Social media” is another complex case…
The dangers of only being social online
In some ways, social media counts toward your social interactions. You can use it—to an extent—to keep up with family and friends. And you may even make new friends. Years ago, I made a great, new friend on Facebook from central Texas, and we still keep in touch online almost every day—whenever I look up from writing and check on my computer.
But there are limits to the benefits of spending time online.
For example, scrolling through post after post of toxic, uninformed fake news and opinions can harm your health. (Especially if the content is about your health!) Plus, reading social attacks by “trolls”—or being personally attacked online—can cause as much physical harm as spending real time in negative social situations.
Apparently, more than one-third of Americans 65 and older now use social media. But I advise limiting your time spent on it—and being very selective about who you follow or engage with.
And remember, it’s far more important to spend face-to-face time with a real person. I always appreciate my Texan friend’s commitment to signing off for the day for “family time.”
Fortunately, my friend also has family living with him in the house. Far too many Americans live by themselves in social isolation, which brings me to my next point…
Living alone is a very real health problem—especially in Florida
In my current home state of Florida, 28 percent of people ages 75 and older live alone. Floridians are particularly at risk of social isolation because many relocated later in life—moving away from their extended families.
And more and more studies emphasize the health hazards of social isolation. For example, one recent study found that social isolation increases your risk of depression, chronic disease, and death. Plus, social isolation was comparable to cigarette smoking as a cause of heart disease. And these effects are particularly strong among older people.
In Pinellas County, FL, the well-known food-delivery program “Meals on Wheels” has started to focus on developing relationships. This improved focus benefits both the house-bound recipient and the driver, by encouraging social interaction.
Of course, it’s not just older people who experience social isolation. Veterans experience it too. Especially here in Florida—which has many active-duty military bases and retired military personnel.
Thankfully, veterans’ programs are now starting to offer community activities, support groups, and group yoga.
I would suggest doing all these social activities outside in Nature—for the added bonus of vitamin D exposure.
Florida in particular offers year-round opportunities to be social at the community pool or beach. (Movement in water is especially good for your body and soul.)
So, to meet new friends, consider signing up for a group water activity. (In fact, you should always practice the “buddy system” when going in water—as a matter of safety.)
Without a doubt, spending time with friends, family, and even new acquaintances helps reduce inflammation and stress. It also improves your well-being and benefits your health and longevity.
Of course, there are many other natural approaches for controlling inflammation—including exercise routines, medical screenings, nutritional supplementation, and lifestyle interventions. You can learn all about the remarkably fast and easy ways to reverse the No. 1 cause of disease and aging in my brand-new Protocol for Eliminating Deadly Inflammation. Click here to learn more about this online learning tool, or enroll today.
“Your Guide to a Healthier, Happier, Longer Life,” AARP, 1/2/2019. (aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2019/guide-healthier-longer-life.html)