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Connect or Your Health Will Suffer

“Copious scientific data proves that loneliness is a greater risk to your health than smoking or lack of exercise, and finding your tribe is better than any vitamin, diet, or exercise regimen.”

– Lissa Rankin, M.D.

You’re smart. You’re savvy.You’re conscious. You keep up.

You don’t smoke. You know all about “trans-fats” and bad cholesterol. You read up on the latest health advice, get regular check-ups and are aware of your need for sleep.

You try hard to exercise and eat well, avoid all the “bad” stuff and drink in moderation. Perhaps you’ve cut out (or back) sugar and caffeine. You know that taking care of yourself is an important responsibility.

Do you also know that loneliness has a more powerful effect on your health than all of the above?

What’s the BEST health advice for you?

Lissa Rankin is an MD who recently wrote the runaway NYT bestselling book Mind Over Medicine. In it she MOM-final-cover1digs deep into peer-reviewed medical research from the most reputable establishments on the planet in an effort to discover what really causes and/or prevents disease.

Connection is important – more important than what you eat or how much you exercise. Yet, it rarely is spoken about in the media. You don’t see ads for “make friends” like you see for “drink milk”. Maybe you should!

In your brain, you have a connection making hormone, oxytocin, which builds your social self. When you’re connected to another person, it floods your brainwaves, makes your stress level decrease and you feel good.

Oxytocin has come through thousands of years of evolution, telling us that despite our best efforts to see ourselves as separate, special individuals, we are social creatures – bound to one another and yet unique. And when those bonds are weak – you suffer.

Who do you spend time with? Who is in your tribe? Is it time to expand your tribe? How often do you really talk frankly to a friend, lover, partner? How much do you reveal of what’s on your mind, especially when it’s troubling?

If you are really committed to your own well-being, check your calendar. When was the last time you spent an evening with friends, had dinner with someone close, took a walk and talked sincerely about what’s happening in your life? If those events are infrequent, sporadic or non-existent for long periods of time, you are hurting yourself. It’s time to change things up.

Ask yourself: Who do I spend time with? Who is in my tribe? Is it time to expand my tribe? How often do I to really talk frankly to a friend, lover, partner? How much do I reveal of what’s on my mind, in my heart, especially when its troubling?

If your answers are: infrequently, now is the time to change that. Here are some ways to do it

  1. Deepen relationships you already have by changing the conversation. Sports and work chat are fine, but it’s time to go deeper.
  2. Look around at your life and see what potential friends are lurking in the background. Move at least one person a week forward with a phone call, lunch date, conversation over the water cooler that’s more than gossip or task related. Then see who you resonate with and take it deeper.
  3. Put spending time with an important someone on the calendar as a regular “date”. Don’t expect chance to make it happen. You must make it happen – and regularly.

Well-being is more than what you eat, how much exercise and rest you get. It includes how much stress you experience. And it’s about how well and how often you connect with others.

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Do you make time for connection? Do you feel like it’s enough or do you need more? Please share your comments here, thanks.

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