By Dr. Nicole Marcione PhD
When you think of health, happiness, and longevity (TML’s tagline), you probably don’t think of the terms “loneliness” or “social isolation”. Usually we are thinking of nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction, the more basic tenets of health and aging well. But let’s face it, we’re beyond the basics when it comes to health and wellness!
Before the pandemic, it was a rare occasion to hear the term “social isolation” and its relationship to health and longevity (unless you’re a Gerontologist, like me). Scientists have been studying the correlation between loneliness, health, and mortality for more than a decade.
In fact, a few years ago, as reported in the Harvard Review, one study observed that social isolation was just as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes per day when it comes to overall health and mortality!! That was quite a shocking discovery. Then, in 2020, the pandemic hit, and suddenly much of the world’s population was feeling the effects of loneliness and isolation, both on their physical and mental wellbeing.
Humans are hard-wired for connection and community. For belonging and tribe. We evolved that way in order to survive through the ages. To leave or be thrown out of the group/community/ family/tribe quite literally meant death, so there was genuine fear for life if you ventured away from the group.
Much like we need food, water, and sleep, we need to feel connected to other humans, to have nurturing relationships, to feel like we have a place to fit in and be accepted for who we truly are. Neuroscientists, psychologists, and mental health professionals have been studying and observing this for centuries, and now we have all the evidence of why tending to our relationships is so important for our health and longevity.
When was the last time you felt like you belonged? Who were you with? Was it with your family, a group of friends, colleagues? When was the last time you truly felt that you did not belong? Who were you with? Why did you stay? As we near the holidays, and time of year where we tend to gather (or feel obligated to gather) more with family, friends and colleagues…
How are you feeling about it?
Our feelings are a great indicator of whether a relationship is good for our wellbeing. Sometimes people in our life aren’t always the “best” people for us, yet we feel obligated to keep them around. Why? It might be time to take inventory of those around us.
Little Venice, Mykonos. Edited Photo by: Jaime Lee Colyer
Kalafati Beach, Mykonos. Edited Photo by: Jaime Lee Colyer
How can you attract more high-quality friends, specially as adults?
It starts with YOU. First, knowing that you are deserving of loving relationships; relationships that lift your energy, not drain it. Having enough self-respect to set boundaries and standards for everyone in your life, including your inner circle of friends. Being open to giving AND receiving (not giving and taking or expecting a quid pro quo).
Having an open mind for new perspectives. Being curious. Finding others who have similar desires. Connecting with others who are growing and evolving at a similar rate as you. Creating experiences that are fun and welcoming. Making time for friends and being completely present. Accepting that sometimes you outgrow friendships; everyone changes and that’s okay.
Finally, realizing that you do not have to be friends with everyone that wants to be your friend. Remember, this is about quality, not quantity. You can be choosy and discerning with who you let have close proximity to you.
As we grow a little bit older each day, how do you want to create more connection, belonging, and community in your life?