the healing power of human connection

NOURISHED ConnectionsIn our hyperconnected world, we can easily get disconnected from actual human contact and interaction.

This Labor Day, spend time enjoying your friends and family – it’s good for your health.

Here are some ideas to help you reap the rewards of  human connection.

Host a monthly “pinterest party” to increase your longevity.

Not only will you get your “DIY” on, but this is a great way to get regular, quality time with your friends.  According to a study from Brigham Young University, people who have close relationships with others and maintain regular social commitments have a 50% lower risk of death than those who live more isolated lives.  Researchers found that “weak” social ties were more harmful to overall health than heavy smoking, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity.

Hug your brood

According to research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, a mother’s affection may have a lifelong impact on her baby. Researchers from Duke University Medical School followed 500 babies from infancy into their 30s. Those whose mamas expressed their love and affection grew up to be adults who had lower levels of anxiety, distress and hostility compared with babies whose mothers showed less physical affection.

Break bread with your family

Make time to eat dinner with your family on a regular basis.  Research indicates that families who make a habit out of sitting around the dinner table together at least five days a week are a happier, closer-knit unit.  According to a survey conducted by the University of Minnesota frequent family meals are related to better nutritional intake, and a decreased risk for unhealthy weight control practices and substance abuse.  A Harvard study showed that eating family dinners together most or all days of the week was associated with eating more healthfully.  The study showed that families eating meals together “every day” or “almost every day” generally consumed higher amounts of important nutrients such as calcium, fiber, iron, vitamins B6 and B12, C and E, and consumed less overall fat, compared to families who “never” or “only sometimes” eat meals together.

Join a triathalon team

The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports reports that women who played team sports experience more health benefits-from increased muscle mass to better physical performance-and also stuck with the sport longer than those who preferred solo exercise regimens.  People tend to push themselves harder and commit to exercise when they belong to a team or group.   Working out with others makes the task more fun and meaningful.

Volunteer around town

Join the ranks of Bono, Princess Di, and Madonna and volunteer!  More than 30 rigorous and longitudinal studies reviewed the relationship between health and volunteering and found that volunteering leads to greater longevity, higher functional ability, lower rates of depression and less incidence of heart disease, and  improved overall physical and mental health.

Take time to cultivate friendships

Schedule time to meet up with your friends and spend time together.  A 2006  study of nearly 3000 nurses with breast cancer found that women without close friends were four times as likely to die from the disease as women with 10 or more friends. And notably, proximity and the amount of contact with a friend wasn’t associated with survival. Just having friends was protective. In another study of 736 middle-aged Swedish men, lack of social support and smoking were the two leading risk factors for heart attack and coronary heart disease.

So, take some time to get connected this holiday weekend, and make plans to stay connected!


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