last updated September 25, 2020

How your relationships keep you healthy and happy

by Rob Arthur

What we eat.

How we train.

When we go to bed.

Much of what we do to stay healthy and happy involves only ourselves.

We often overlook how other people – our real and perceived social connections – affect our pursuit of a most excellent life.

The people with whom we spend our time influence our habits and behaviors, and poor social ties have been linked to cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, autonomic dysregulation, high blood pressure, cancer, inflammatory biomarkers, and impaired immune function (1).

A 2010 review found that those with stronger social relationships had a 50% increased likelihood of survival over a given period of time than those with weaker social relationships, an influence comparable to smoking and alcohol consumption and exceeding factors such as physical inactivity and obesity (2).

Even subjective loneliness has been found to be a risk factor for cardiovascular, metabolic, inflammatory, immune, and stress-related issues, in addition to fragmented sleep and diminished impulse control (3).

You might be curious whether digital and/or online relationships can serve the same purpose as relationships in real life.

Research on the effects of social media use on physical and mental health is inconclusive, revealing a variety of beneficial and detrimental effects (4).

You’ll want to figure out for yourself what role social media plays in your pursuit of health and happiness.

Here are some ideas, though, to help you cultivate meaningful connections in real life.

Maintain regular contact with family members.

Reach out to old friends, even if only by phone or text.

Seek out new relationships through interest groups, volunteer opportunities, or spiritual gatherings.

You might even simply get out of the house to spend time in public around other people.

Finally, consider how those around you influence your thoughts, emotions, and actions.

You are worthy of being around those who elevate you to a better life.

What ideas do you have for fostering social connection?

How can you start putting those ideas into practice?

What steps can you take today to get started?

Do what you can.

That’s all you can do.

You’ve got this.


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