Did you know that great social relationships can actually extend the human lifespan?
Having great relationships in your life is one of the best things you can do to improve your chances of living longer.
Humans are very social creatures and meaningful connections with others are essential for our health and happiness. In fact, good, close relationships can even shield us from health problems as we age.
Numerous studies have shown that people with great relationships enjoy more happiness, better health, and longer lives.
This is true regardless of their socioeconomic status, exercise levels, or eating habits. Pretty amazing, right?
How Social Relationships Impact Our Minds & Bodies
High-quality social connections improve our well-being just like good eating habits, regular exercise, and high-quality sleep.
This could be because socializing helps lower harmful stress hormones such as cortisol, which can cause significant damage to our health if left unchecked.
High stress can have a negative impact on our arteries, gut health, insulin regulation, and immune system.
Good relationships can cause big drops in cortisol levels which inevitably improve our overall health. Caring for other people and showing social support also helps in this area by triggering the release of stress-reducing hormones.
Kind acts and affection improve health for both the giver and the receiver. Just another great reason to help others, give out compliments, and offer support when someone needs it.
Connecting with others actually improves brain health and allows our minds to age better as we progress through different stages of life.
Bonding with other beings regularly can improve:
- Mental health
- Cardiovascular health
- Immunity levels
- Cognitive performance
Research also shows that mortality rates are tied to social relationships. People with the least amount of social ties are over twice as likely to die than people with the most ties.
On the flip side, not having good social relationships can hurt our health in many ways. This can include increased depression, cognitive decline, and a higher risk of mortality.
Social relationships are so important, that risk of death increases by 50% for people lacking them. That is on par with the negative effects of smoking and exceeds other risk factors for death, such as obesity or physical inactivity.
Relationship Quality Matters
If you want to live a better and longer life, it is essential to cultivate positive relationships over time.
High-quality connections can do wonders for our well-being and bring us much happiness as we journey through life. These good relationships can actually protect us from the harmful elements of life.
For example, people who are most satisfied in their relationships tend to be healthier decades later. Studies have found that women in midlife with very satisfying marriages had a lower risk for cardiovascular disease than those in less satisfying marriages.
On the other hand, living in conflict with people is actually very harmful to both our mental and physical health. Many other studies have also linked disappointing or negative relationships with friends and family with poor health.
For example, one research report found that immunity levels can suffer when couples are in the middle of very tense arguments and hostile discussions.
Great Ways to Improve Your Social Ties
It can be difficult to maintain good relationships as we go through the many stages of our lives.
Sometimes friendships fizzle out and people get caught up in the demands of their lives. Family relationships can also fade due to fights, distance, or simply a lack of communication.
Thankfully it’s never too late to repair old relationships or find new friends to build with.
By putting yourself in social situations, you can increase your chances of finding quality connections with other people. Try to join a club or volunteer within your community. Helping others will release stress-reducing hormones, and you may find a new friend or two along the way.
If you find a gap in your social life due to recent changes, don’t be afraid to fill it in with some new relationships. It’s also a good idea to try to nurture and enhance our existing relationships with friends and family members.
Working on current relationships makes people happier, even if they aren’t always perfect. Try to reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while and see how they’re doing.
Maintaining Relationships While Social Distancing
You may find it difficult to maintain healthy relationships as we go through the COVID-19 pandemic.
People are increasingly isolated as stay at home orders and social distancing protocols have been put in place across the country. Taking these measures seriously is very important but that doesn’t mean our desire for socializing has to suffer.
To combat loneliness and keep your relationships thriving, set some time aside to check in with your friends and family. A weekly check-in call is a great way to stay connected and talk about any new developments in each other’s lives.
Video conferences and chats are also a great way to see your friends and family and fill the void you may feel from not being able to meet in person. These virtual, face-to-face interactions are an excellent way to strengthen social ties.
Another great way to stay connected is by participating in challenges and games together. Try to organize virtual book clubs, cooking challenges, or workouts.
People are also playing video games together through online connectivity options, allowing them to have fun together while also staying in their respective homes.
As you can see, social relationships have a huge impact on our health and well-being. Having warm and caring ties with those around us can actually shield us from the harms of life and help us live happier longer lives.
Staying connected to other people is a great way to take care of yourself, and should be considered as important as eating right and staying out. Nurture your current relationships and put yourself in situations where you can cultivate new connections with positive people.