What’s the Secret to Lasting Health and Happiness?
We’re all searching for ways to stay healthier, be sharper, and feel happier in our lives. And in today’s digital world, it’s becoming even harder to find what’s most fulfilling in life. Is it the size of your bank account? The number of followers on your Instagram feed? The number of awards on your shelf? None of the above, according to science.
To find the answers, a decades-long Harvard study has been following over 700 men throughout their lifetimes. About 60 of the original volunteers are still living and every few years, they have their blood drawn, they get their brains scanned, and they answer many personal questions.
The conclusions? The researchers say it all boils down to one thing: love.
“The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period,” said Robert Waldinger, the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, in a TED Talk.
It’s simple. People who have close relationships with family and friends live longer, are physically healthier, have better memories, and feel happier.
Social Connections and Brain Health
Social connections play a major role in cognitive function and mental health. Did you know that family dysfunction can trigger depression? Or that loneliness is considered a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease? Think about the fact that the 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 50 who have no significant other and no living children have the highest rate of suicide and an increasing incidence of drug addiction. Loneliness is a killer.
The Social Media Scam
Although you may think the rise of social media is helping us connect, it is actually getting in the way of our relationships. Research on adolescents shows an association between social media and depression, anxiety, loneliness, inattention, hyperactivity/impulsivity, oppositional defiant disorder, sleep problems, a drop in self-esteem, and the dreaded FOMO (fear of missing out).
Your Social Circle—One of the 4 Circles of Brain Health
Your social connections are one component of the “4 Circles” of health and illness:
- Biological: how your physical body and brain function (body)
- Psychological: developmental issues and how you think (mind)
- Social: social support and your current life situation (connections)
- Spiritual: your connection to God, the planet, past and future generations, and your deepest sense of meaning and purpose (spirit)
This means that your social circle—along with your biological, psychological, and spiritual circles—can either boost your health and happiness or drag it down. To have a healthy brain, optimal cognitive function, and good mental health, it’s important to optimize all 4 circles.
5 Steps to Strengthen Your Social Circle
To strengthen your social circle, try these 5 easy ways to connect.
Think quality, not quantity.
When it comes to social connections, it’s the quality that counts, not the numbers. Having a wide circle of acquaintances isn’t as important as having close companions.
Avoid unhealthy people.
We tend to pick up the habits and thoughts patterns of those closest to us. Be very careful in choosing your friends and significant other.
Limit social media.
Set limits on how much time you spend on social media.
Spend time with those you love.
Relationships require time to grow. Make time to foster your connections with friends and family, whether it’s going to lunch, taking a hike, or going to a museum or sporting event together.
Adopt positive relationship habits.
To improve your connections with others, be sure to listen when they speak and notice what you like about your friends and family more than what you don’t like.
At Amen Clinics we use the 4 circles as part of a balanced, comprehensive approach to assessment and healing. If you have memory issues or mental health problems and are looking for a path to treatment that encompasses your whole being, call 888-288-9834 to speak to a specialist or schedule a visit online.