Can Having Better Relationships Enhance Your Mental Health?
It is important to maintain strong relationships with people, but just how important?
The United Kingdom appointed a Minister for Loneliness to address the finding that nine million British people often or always feel lonely. To some, this may come as a surprise. It should not.
Loneliness and social isolation are on the rise, leading many to call it an epidemic.
In recent decades, the number of people with zero confidants has tripled, and most adults do not belong to a local community group. Consequently, more than one third of Americans over the age of 45 report feeling lonely, with prevalence especially high among those under 25 and over 65 years old.
While this alarming trend has grown, so has understanding of its impact. By now, the evidence is abundant and decisive: social connection significantly affects health. When you believe that you have people in your life who care about you, and you interact with them regularly, you are better off. For instance, you may be less likely to catch a cold, slip into early cognitive decline, and develop depression.
What Does Research Tell Us?
A study at Harvard University that followed hundreds of people for 75 years identified the quality of people’s relationships as the single clearest predictor of their physical health, longevity, and quality of life.
Limbic System + Loneliness
Do you know people who see every situation in a bad light? Or someone who struggles with feelings of sadness, loneliness, lack of motivation, or hopelessness? If so, they could be experiencing troubles with the functioning of the limbic system in their brain.
The limbic system, also called the emotional brain, lies near the center of the brain. Considering its size – about that of a walnut – it is packed with functions critical for human behavior and survival. The limbic system processes our sense of smell, stores highly charged emotional memories, and affects sleep and appetite cycles, moods, sexuality, and bonding.
What Can You Do?
It has been shown that enhancing emotional bonds between people will help heal the limbic system. How you get along with other people can either help or hurt your limbic system! The better you get along with those around you, the better you will feel.