When we think about our health, most people think about diet, exercise, and lack of disease. If we are a little more health-conscious we may also consider sleep, stress, toxin exposure, and proactive therapies. What oft gets forgotten is the vital importance of connection. Connection is important for mental health and life-purpose which has a direct effect on our physical body including our brain, cardiovascular system, and immune system. Without connection, our mental, emotional, and physical health suffers.
As we age, the importance of connection becomes even more pronounced. Loneliness and social isolation are recognized as significant risk factors for various health issues, ranging from cardiovascular diseases to cognitive decline. Research consistently shows that individuals with strong social ties live longer, healthier lives compared to those who lack daily connection. One (of probably hundreds) of pathways that connection influences physical health is through the release of oxytocin, often referred to as the "love hormone," during moments of connection and intimacy. Oxytocin release has been linked to reduced stress levels and improved cardiovascular health. This normal hormonal response highlights the relationship between our emotional experiences and physical health, emphasizing the need to prioritize nurturing relationships for holistic health and aging.
Here are 5 Ways to Create and Nurture Connection
1. Community Engagement: Actively participating in social groups or community activities provides a sense of belonging and support. Whether it's a fitness class, religious gathering, a book club, or volunteering, engaging with like-minded individuals fosters connection and helps combat feelings of isolation.
2. Family/Partner Bonds: Strengthening relationships with safe and healthy family members is a cornerstone of holistic aging. Regular communication, shared activities, and emotional support from loved ones contribute significantly to mental and emotional well-being.
3. Communicate and Be the First to Reach Out: Call friends. Set-up regular video chats with family. Join weekly trivia or sporting leagues. Move beyond the fear of rejection and embrace finding people who say "yes" and are also seeking connection.
4. Relationship with Self: Holistic health extends beyond external connections; it encompasses our relationship with ourselves. Developing self-compassion, embracing personal growth, and prioritizing self-care are essential components of holistic health.
5. Cultivate New Connections: It's never too late to form new connections. Connect with the people you interact with on a daily basis... people at the grocery store, neighbors, the person you order coffee from, fellow dog walkers, etc. Learn how to elevate relationships as well by being the first to recommend grabbing coffee or go for a walk.