Build a healthy heart with a healthy social life

Build a healthy heart with a healthy social life

My daughter is seven years old, full of wonder and spunk and big blue eyes that will melt your heart. From the moment she was born, my husband has been wrapped around her pinky finger and stressed to the gills about how in the world he is going to survive her dating years.

Mental health and stressLast night, as she was getting ready to drift off to sleep, she said she had to tell me something and wanted to whisper into my ear. Today, I passed Noah in PE and you know what he did? He blew me a kiss. I don’t know why he did that.”

She and I giggled, and my husband looked like he had been punched in the gut. A sign of things to come!

People begin to form social connections from the toddler years throughout adulthood. Researchers have always known the importance of a healthy social life, but up until recently, the focus was on the emotional benefits. Now, we know that people with vibrant social lives also tend to live healthier and longer. Mental health and stress are connected!

For example, Alzheimer’s researchers have performed studies  that show a connection between a healthy social life and a reduction in cognitive decline (loss of memory and related functions). Participants in the study who socialize regularly experienced 70% less decline in memory and function.

Healthy Social LifeSocializing can be any kind of “in person” activity, but humans are an efficient species. Here are a few ways you can enhance your physical and social well-being:

  • Form a walking group with friends or family – plus this is a great way to be a healthy role model for your kids.
  • You are never too old to learn something new!  Take a photography or cooking class or learn martial arts. Whatever your interest is, you will make new friends while exercising your body and brain.
  • Volunteer. If you do not have a lot of social connections, this is a great way to meet new people with similar interests.

Ask yourself— “How do I handle stress?” Do you think you handle it well, or could you use some help?

Whether you are 7 or 70 years old, surrounding yourself with friends and loved ones is one of the healthiest things you can do! And give them hugs every so often. You’ll boost your health even more!

Sources: Berkley; NIH

Originally published February 2, 2015