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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.
When we experience stress, our bodies change:
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.
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.
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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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.
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.
Researchers found that the absence of distress doesn’t necessarily correlate with high psychological well-being, but it does with having one’s basic needs met.
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.