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Human Connection And Well-Being

by jenny sansouci on January 19, 2016

well-be·ing
noun

the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.

I’ve always had a feeling that connecting with people makes you healthier, happier, more understood, more able to understand your life. In fact, it’s one of the 3 Pillars of Optimal Health that I created.

Whenever I spend too much time by myself I start to think I’m the only one experiencing life the way I am. And then as soon as I get around people I realize everyone is. As much as we are unique, we are also not unique. I think it’s important to remember that. Our minds (and Facebook) can be powerful and convince us that everyone else is perfect and has no struggles.

Things like Facebook and social media can be a good way to keep a finger on the pulse about what people are up to, to learn and to share information and creative work, and to connect. I am, obviously, a big advocate of connecting with people on social media. I met my boyfriend on Twitter, after all. Well, technically I Googled something and he showed up. But then, I tweeted him.

But for all the connection you can have over social media, I’ve noticed something interesting lately. It can make people depressed. So many people tell me they feel worse about their lives after looking at social media. Many people lately have mentioned to me that they’ve deactivated their accounts, deleted the apps from their phone, or simply made a vow to stop scrolling.

Clearly, there’s a big element missing when it comes to human connection there. Something isn’t “whole” about it, maybe.

I remember studying with the brilliant Dr. Annemarie Colbin a few years ago, who passed away last year. I took a Food Therapy course with her.  She used to say that when you eat “fragmented food,” meaning food that has been processed and isn’t the actual WHOLE food, just fragments of it, your body has cravings because it’s looking for the rest.

I wonder if this is how it is with social media. We get a piece of human connection, but not the whole thing, so we feel like something’s missing and we have cravings for “the rest” – i.e. real connection.

But hey listen, this blog isn’t about the perils of social media on your mental well-being. I make my living online, so I’m kind of kicking myself in the butt if I tell you you shouldn’t be here. 😉 But, this is about the importance of getting face-to-face interactions with people, the “whole” picture, not just what you see online – which I think can have a MASSIVE impact on how we feel about life. 

Someone sent me an excerpt form Matthew Lieberman’s book, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Connect, the other day.

I thought these studies were really interesting related to human connection:

In one study, volunteering was associated with greater well-being, and for people who volunteered at least once a week, the increase in their well-being was equivalent to the increase associated with moving from a $20,000-a-year salary to a $75,000-a-year salary.

Another study found having a friend, whom you see on most days, compared to not having such a friend, had the same impact on well-being as making an extra $100,000 a year.

Being married is also worth an extra $100,000, while being divorced is on par with having your salary slashed by $90,000.

Just seeing your neighbor regularly is like making an extra $60,000.

I believe it.

This article says:

“Many regulatory systems in the body, especially blood pressure, metabolism and stress hormones, have all shown to be affected by relationships and the quality of social interaction. Lab studies indicate that in stressful situations, a person’s blood pressure and heart rate will spike less if someone is with them.

Studies also suggest that sleeping next to someone you love can lead to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, lower levels of cytokines that can cause inflammation, and higher levels of oxytocin, a hormone shown to ease anxiety.

Clearly, in-person relationships have a huge impact on our well-being. I know this probably isn’t new information to you guys, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I honestly don’t think studies are necessary to prove this, just go hug someone and you’ll know, but people like stats and studies, so there ya go.

What do you think?

Jenny




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