Secret to Longevity – Build a Community that Uplifts Your Spirits and Find the Fountain of Youth
The Secret to Longevity: Relationships and Connections – Want to know a secret about longevity? It’s not about the food you eat, the car you drive, or what part of the world you live in. It’s not even about your genetics or whether you exercise regularly. Those things can definitely play a role, and can certainly affect the quality of your life, but when it comes down to living longer there’s one thing that matters most — the connections and relationships you have with other people.
But why are relationships such a big deal for living a long time? It all has to do with the health of your brain. As it turns out, keeping your brain healthier as you get older is the best way to live longer and have a better quality of life at the same time. And the best way to keep your brain healthier is to use it. When you’re actively engaged with other people, and you interact with them on a frequent basis, you’re much more likely to keep your brain focused on tasks and ideas. You also laugh more, and you know you can rely on people to help you if you need them. That adds to your peace of mind and creates a feeling of security that can improve health and keep you around for the long term.
Relating to Others is Meaningful
The most meaningful experience you can have is relating to others, says Louis Cozolino, a professor of psychology at Pepperdine University. He believes that human beings aren’t really understood well when they’re looked at individually, but seeing them in context with others can help determine more about them — and about society as a whole. Because of that, it’s clear to Cozolino and other researchers who look into this field that the connections human beings have with one another play a big role in how healthy people are and how long they’ll survive. In short, most people thrive when they spend time with others and form close relationships with them.
Social Neuroscience is a Growing Field
Thanks to the work of Cozolino and others like him, the social neuroscience field is expanding. More research is being done into how people interact with others and the world around them, and that research is finding that people who have a higher level of social support live longer, better lives. The Harvard Medical School Nurses’ Health Study is a good example of what Cozolino is talking about, and provides significant insight into how people who have help and love in their lives tend to be happier, stronger, and have a better chance at recovery when they have a serious illness or injury.
So, How Does This Apply to Your Life?
If you don’t have a lot of social support in your life, especially if you’re getting well into adulthood, reaching out and forming friendships and stronger bonds may make things easier for you. Not only does that give you people to rely on, but it can also mean you’ll feel better in general. Your chances of problems like depression and cardiovascular disease will drop when you have strong connections and relationships for support, according to the Harvard study, and you’ll feel better about life and the future. People who want to keep living and who are excited to see what’s coming along in their future also often take better care of themselves, and that can contribute to their longevity.
As you reach out and do more things with your friends or family members, or you spend time at a local place where people know and recognize you, you start to feel like people care and you have value in the world. It’s a form of external validation that can be very important for mental health. But it’s also more than that, in that having a network of people you can reach out to and interact with can help ward off depression and other mental health issues. Additionally, you’ll have people who can help you if you have an injury or medical problem and require a little more care and compassion.
You don’t need a big circle of friends for relationships and connections in your life to be meaningful. A few people you’re close with can be enough to tip the scales in favor of having a longer, healthier life. Even if you’re more introverted and like your alone time, foster some good connections and help each other when needed. That can lead to not only a longer life, but a richer and more fulfilling one, as well.