A lack of social connection can be more dangerous for your physical health than obesity, smoking or high blood pressure.
People who have close friends and a supportive social community enjoy stronger immune systems, a 50% chance of living a longer life and a generally happier, more optimistic disposition. They tend to experience less anxiety and depression, and are more empathetic and cooperative.
Psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman, a key force in creating the relatively new science of Positive Psychology, even cites having good social connections as one of the three essential elements of happiness.
Brain scans from a University of Michigan study show that feelings of social rejection activate the same areas of the brain as physical pain. Humans seem to be hardwired for social interaction — we place a high value on being loved, appreciated, and part of a community.
People who feel isolated are more likely to feel threatened. Constantly feeling worried or uneasy taxes the immune system, setting the body up for a lowered ability to fight off illness. This negative impact of loneliness on health has no restrictions as far as age, gender, socioeconomic status or race, but is more frequently noted in marginalized demographics, such as the poor and the elderly.
Even though the importance of friendships for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health has been proven, sociological research suggests the number of people who have one or several close connections is actually dropping. A divorce, move, job change or time demands can cause us to lose friends, or hinder making new ones.
So how does an adult make new friends and create those essential social connections? Here are some tips:
- Volunteer – Whether it’s walking dogs at the local animal shelter, helping Habitat for Humanity or collecting canned goods, volunteering has the dual benefit of making you feel like a million bucks, and connecting you with like-minded potential friends.
- Take a class – So you think you can paint, or you want to try square dancing or organic gardening? Find an age-appropriate class in your community and go for it! You’ll not only improve your skill set and self-esteem – you’ll be meeting others with similar interests.
- Do things you love – Visit an arboretum, attend a gallery opening, dust off that old djembe and go to a drum circle. Even if you arrive solo, you can grab a cup of coffee with people afterwards.
- Express yourself! – Join a church choir or a community theater group – either one will let you exercise your artistic muscles and meet some interesting people.
- Work out – Nurture your body with yoga, zumba, spinning or weights. Fitness centers are a great place to find potential friends.
- Feed your spirit — Sample area churches, meditation groups or non-denominational centers with a lively roster of presenters. As you discover more ways to rejuvenate your spirit, you’ll automatically widen your circle of acquaintances and create a fertile environment for growing strong social connections.
You’ll find an enthusiastic, supportive community at the Optimum Health Institute in San Diego and Austin, Texas. We can help you cleanse your body, quiet your mind and rejuvenate your spirit to achieve your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual goals for optimal health. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org , and call us at (800) 993-432 5 to make your reservation.
Sometimes, a person “getting under your skin” can be just what you need. A licensed massage therapist is trained to provide the right touch to help you relieve stress and pain, eliminate toxins and facilitate increased circulation and blood flow throughout your body. Massage is a tried and true way to assist the body in coming into a state of optimum health.
As more people discover the rejuvenating, healing and calming effects of massage therapy, the practice is cropping up everywhere. From spas to airports to hospitals and businesses, licensed massage therapists are ready to rub away your anxiety, aches and muscle soreness. A good massage promotes greater flexibility, deeper sleep, and a general feeling of well-being.
The clear scientific evidence of the benefits of massage therapy, reports the American Hospital Association, has led to a growing number of medical clinics offering it to patients. Patients feel less stressed, more flexible, and better able to sleep soundly, even in an unfamiliar hospital environment. Massage relaxes patients prior to and following a surgical procedure, gentle massage increases blood flow to speed healing.
While most of us immediately think of massage as a therapist’s hands and fingers kneading our skin, new variations continue to expand the field. Some of the most popular options are:
- Swedish Massage Therapy – With kneading, long strokes and circular movements, this form can be quite gentle, and is one of the most requested massage techniques.
- Aromatherapy Massage – A massage therapist utilizes one or several essential oils to promote relaxation, stress-reduction, rejuvenation or other specific needs. For instance, lavender oil calms, while peppermint cools aching muscles, rose oil is used for balancing hormones and treating PMS, and clove oil helps teeth and gum issues and stomach aches.
- Hot Stone Massage – Particularly effective for people holding a lot of stress in their bodies, this method involves strategically placing smooth, warm stones on various body parts to melt away tension. The massage therapist can also apply gentle pressure to the stones, or use them to stroke the body.
- Deep Tissue Massage – Practitioners use slower strokes to more deeply penetrate layers of muscle and connective tissue. It’s effective in providing relief for painful muscles, or recovery from an injury.
- Shiatsu – This technique targets acupressure points with steady finger pressure, opening up energy points to balance the body.
- Thai Massage – Unlike other forms of massage, where the client lies motionless on a treatment table, Thai Massage therapists move and stretch you to manipulate specific energy points on the body. It’s popular for increasing range of motion.
- Reflexology – for every point on the body, there’s a corresponding point on the feet. Foot Reflexologists massage the feet to relax you, then apply deep, penetrating pressure to specific areas of your feet. Even a short reflexology session leaves your entire body energized.
- Lymph Massage – With feather-light strokes and circulation motions, massage therapists work on lymph glands throughout the body to help drain accumulated fluids. This technique is particularly important when lymph glands become inflamed or enlarged because of an infection, surgery or illness. In those cases the lymph glands are unable to drain naturally, trapping toxic waste in your body. That’s when a gentle lymph massage is the only way to effectively drain the fluids.
- Sports Massage – This method helps reduce or prevent inflammation and muscle soreness after a demanding workout. It also increases flexibility and can enhance an athlete’s performance.
- Back Massage – Particularly requested by people who spend hours daily hunched over a computer, this technique soothes and de-stresses tense, knotted muscles in the neck, shoulders and back.
Massage, along with other services to help you cleanse your body, quiet your mind and rejuvenate your spirit, are offered at the Optimum Health Institute in San Diego and Austin, Texas. We can help you achieve your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual goals for optimal health. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org , and call us at (800) 993-4325 to make your reservation.
Here’s a quick experiment to show how closely your mind and body are linked.
First, get a pencil. Sit down, close your eyes, and take a deep breath, noting your emotional state. Now, put your teeth together, and hold the end of the pencil between your lips, making your mouth turn down into a frown. After about 30 seconds in that position, close your eyes again, take another deep breath, and note your emotional state. You might feel a little more ‘down’ this time. But don’t worry, we’re not done.
Now, hold the end of the pencil between your teeth, forcing your mouth into a smile. Stay in that position another 30 seconds, then close your eyes, take that deep breath, and check in with your emotions. Bet you feel a bit happier now, right?
You can put the pencil down.
What just happened was your body assumed the traditional muscle patterns for ‘sadness’ and ‘happiness,’ and sent a message to your brain. Immediately, you probably began to feel even a slight inclination towards the emotion your body was suggesting. Recent scientific research is proving that the body and mind are essentially intertwined on a molecular level, and treating one will have a profound impact on the other. That means the same way that your body just influenced your emotions, how you’re feeling emotionally will be reflected in your physical self. When you’re anxious or stressed, your body could translate those feelings into a headache, queasy stomach, or even chronic illness.
Back in the 19th century, Charles Darwin was one of the first scientists to suggest a possible link between our body and our emotions.
It took another century and several decades before the concept was medically proven by visionary neuroimmunologist Candace Pert. Her research showed a biochemical link between the body and the mind, with our emotions serving as a link between the two. She discovered that our mental state will be reflected in our bodies, and the body and the mind should actually be viewed as a single “mind-body” unit.
These groundbreaking findings spurred the creation of a new branch of science called “Psycho-Neuro-Immunology,” or PNI. PNI connects neuroscience, immunology and endocrinology into a single interdependent communication network. Facilitating communication among the three facets are molecules called (neuro) peptides.
In Dr. Pert’s pioneering book, Molecules of Emotion, The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine, she states, “The chemicals that are running our body and our brain are the same chemicals that are involved in emotion. And that says to me that we’d better pay more attention to emotions with respect to health.”
“In the end I find I can’t separate brain from body. Consciousness isn’t just in the head. Nor is it a question of the power of the mind over the body…because they’re flip sides of the same thing. Mind doesn’t dominate body, it becomes body.”
You can find Dr. Pert’s book in the Optimum Health Store at the Optimum Health Institute (OHI) missions in San Diego and Austin, Texas.
Learn more about bringing your mind-body into a healthy balance when you cleanse your body, quiet your mind and rejuvenate your spirit at OHI. We can help you achieve your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual goals for optimal health. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org , and call us at (800) 993-4325 to make your reservation.