The Healing Power of Connection and the Dangers of Loneliness
Part I: The Power of Healthy Social Connection for Healing
Could it be that the person you’re eating and sleeping with is the cause of your heart and health problems, more than those cravings for cupcakes?
In my recent series to celebrate American Heart Month, I’ve discussed several of the mysteries of the heart. My goal for this “Month of Love” is to broaden the viewpoint on what comprises true cardiovascular health. Our current approach is not making a dent to this number one cause of mortality in the United States.
One integrative approach that I explored was the HeartMath Institute’s philosophy. These researchers broadened the concept of factors linked to heart function by observing this lovely organ’s connection to the brain. What they found was that the head-heart link was scientific! Their game-changing research on the synchronization of physical, emotional, and mental systems (coherence), as measured by heart rate variability (HRV), has now been demonstrated to enhance stress resilience, promote overall well-being, support emotional balance, and lead to less reactive responses to perceived tension in social situations.
If you want to experience it for yourself, try the two HeartMath Institute techniques I provided, with a combination of essential oils, on my homepage. These will assist you with a “reboot” between your brain and heart. This “calming outflow” opens the door for greater harmony in relationships, optimization of performance, and overall health.
That’s a Valentine’s Day present for you and your loved ones!
Speaking of this day of February the 14th…
Is Your Valentine Helping or Hurting Your Heart?
Although many may still debate the meaning of this day in history, it is now a cultural norm to express our affections to our loved ones, mostly in the currency of chocolate and greeting cards.
Regardless of the gifts you get, or don’t get, how you feel about the giver may be more important for your long-term relationship than a guilty hand-to-the-forward-I-forget slap.
That’s the gem you can take from this article and stop reading now, if you’re pressed for time or don’t want the science.
Keeping with the theme of the mysteries of the heart this month:
- Let’s dive deeper into why healthy social relationships are associated with healthier hearts.
- Then, we’ll discuss what most people are afraid to look at: how those nagging toxic relationships you can’t let go of, or disconnect from, and isolation can kill you, literally.
- Finally, you can learn more about how essential oils can support these connections by balancing stress and hormones which can cause explosive, destroying, emotional outbursts on homepage blog later this week.
1. The Healing Power of Social Relationships
In a 2010 article in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, key research themes between relationships and health and its implications for policy were reviewed. The authors summarized the detriments of isolation and five main findings on social relationships from various studies. They stated:
Captors use social isolation to torture prisoners of war—to drastic effect. Social isolation of otherwise healthy, well-functioning individuals eventually results in psychological and physical disintegration, and even death.
Over the past few decades, social scientists have gone beyond evidence of extreme social deprivation to demonstrate a clear link between social relationships and health in the general population.
Adults who are more socially connected are healthier and live longer than their more isolated peers. This article describes major findings in the study of social relationships and health, and how that knowledge might be translated into policy that promotes population health.
Key research findings include:
(1) social relationships have significant effects on health;
(2) social relationships affect health through behavioral, psychosocial, and physiological pathways;
(3) relationships have costs and benefits for health;
(4) relationships shape health outcomes throughout the life course and have a cumulative impact on health over time; and
(5) the costs and benefits of social relationships are not distributed equally in the population.
Before we move on, let me summarize:
- isolation is used for torture
- social relationships shape health
The Good News…Positive Relationships Equate to Better Health
As expected, the article referenced above provides evidence that positive relationships have mostly been associated with beneficial effects on the body, mind, and spirit. I previously summarized some of these powerful health associations related to social connection and relationships.
The bottom line is that there are many benefits that come with being part of a welcoming community and fostering a grateful heart.
2. The Toxicity of Loneliness
When the connection between loneliness was found to be more of a health risk than “obesity” or smoking, the media took notice, and people had two choices:
- Ignore it and exercise harder, and eat “better”
- Take a hard, dirty look at your perceptions (KEY WORD) of your relationships and your health goals
Since isolation can kill, let’s define some terms before moving on…
The authors defined social isolation as “relative absence of social relationships.” They also explained the aspects of social integration, quality of relationships, and social networks as all factors that affect health:
Social integration refers to overall level of involvement with informal social relationships, such as having a spouse, and with formal social relationships, such as those with religious institutions and volunteer organizations.
Quality of relationships includes positive aspects of relationships, such as emotional support provided by significant others, and strained aspects of relationships, such as conflict and stress.
Social networks refer to the web of social relationships surrounding an individual, in particular, structural features, such as the type and strength of each social relationship.
Click here to continue reading, or listen to the audios, on how toxic and strained relations can cause harm AND learn tools and techniques to move toward more positive connections.