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How Your Social Life Might Help You Live Longer

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_your_social_life_might_help_you_life_longer

greatergood.berkeley.edu

How Your Social Life Might Help You Live Longer
According to a new book, the secret to longevity isn't just diet and exercise—being connected and kind matters, as well.

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Physical health is more than exercise

Physical health is more than exercise

When we want to maximize our physical health, we should not only focus on a balanced diet and exercise but also on our social relationships.

Studies, again and again, point to our relationships as a major factor in health. One meta-study found that people with healthy and supportive relationships live longer.

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Our mental state impacts biological processes

When we experience stress, our bodies change:

  • The stress hormone increases.
  • Our cardiovascular system activates its fight or flight response.
  • Inflammation increases. Inflammation helps us fight off bacteria.
  • Our ability to fight off viruses decreases.

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The main stressor that humans deal with

Loneliness is a major stressor. Loneliness increases cortisol and inflammation - which hurt our health in the long run.

Taking time to connect with others help activate beneficial processes, such as the release of oxytocin. Oxytocin lower cortisol, reduce pain, change the way our brain responds to potential stressors, and promote the growth of new brain cells.

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Building new social habits

Because our social relationships are vital for our health, it's important to consider how to improve them. Just as we might plan healthy meals or exercise, we should plan to spend quality time with friends and family.

We can catch up with friends remotely, a phone call being better than texting. We should also consider how to incorporate kindness into our routine. An act of kindness could be bringing someone chocolates, opening doors for others, or picking up trash.

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Looking beyond the individual

Many of the factors that impact our health are best understood at the level of community, rather than the individual.

People that live in a friendly neighborhood have a lower risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Try to invest more time into your family life. Stop to chat with neighbors. Try to be kinder.

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Creating Purpose

Living a life with meaning and purpose is key to improving your psychological well-being. Your purpose doesn’t necessarily have to involve changing the world or devoting yourself to helping others.

If you lack a purpose, think about the legacy you’d like to leave behind and establish some objectives that can help you reach those goals. 

Psychological Well-Being

it is the combination of feeling good and functioning effectively. People with high psychological well-being report feeling capable, well-supported, and satisfied with life, besides living longer and healthier lives.

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Loneliness Is A Kind Of Pain

  • Loneliness affects 19 to 43 per cent of adults who are now past 60 years of age.
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Loneliness And Mental Health

Studies show that older adults who are lonely see a decline in their thinking abilities, which is rapid if paired with other factors like physical inactivity, anxiety, poor sleep and high blood pressure.

Prolonged social isolation is a kind of mental stress leading to various mental and physical health issues like faster ageing, dementia and cognitive decline. It has also been linked to the factors that lead to Alzheimer’s disease, like a build-up of certain toxic proteins in the brain.

Social Activities As A Form Of Self-Care

  • The negative impact of prolonged loneliness can be curbed with maintaining high-quality relationships and social activity.
  • How we manage our feelings and relationships is important for our brain’s health.
  • Self-care is an essential component of our mental and physical health, and we have to focus our attention towards better sleep and exercise routines, healthy eating and engaging in enjoyable activities.

Happy people are responsible

  • They don't hold on to grudges. Forgiving and forgetting is absolutely necessary.
  • They don't make excuses. They use failure as an opportunity to change for the better.

Happy people are well rounded people

  • They savor the moment. They "stop to smell the roses".
  • They're busy, but not rushed. A healthy work-life balance is key.
  •  They don't sweat the small stuff. They focus only of what is important and within their control.

Happy people invest in their relationships

  • They spend money on others. One reason is that it creates social connections.
  • They celebrate other people's success through "active and constructive" responding.
  • They treat everyone with respect and kindness. Kindness, like happiness, is contagious.
  • They're proactive about relationships. They work on maintaining their relationships.
  • They express gratitude. It improves mood and energy and decreases anxiety.
  • They engage in deep, meaningful conversations.

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