As humans, it’s important for us to lead fulfilling lives filled with purpose and meaning. Rather than just going through life on autopilot or charging through your day, it’s beneficial to reflect on a regular basis and do things that make you happy. Having strong and stable social connections is a huge part of this. Positive relationships can have a powerful influence on our health, and poor social relationships have been proven to increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
You can improve your life expectancy, reduce your chances of inflammation, and even switch on anti-ageing genes simply by forging quality social connections. Having positive interactions activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces potentially detrimental hormones in our bodies. This has a knock-on effect with physical changes such as decreasing your blood pressure and heart rate. Having a strong, stable social network around you is a great way to reduce stress.
Emotions play a huge role in our heart health, and social interactions are the most common source of producing feelings of happiness and self-worth. We know that when people are being sociable, they release hormones that protect the heart, such as oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins. On the flipside, if you’re socially isolated, you won’t be getting these beneficial natural protective barriers for your heart. People who are lonely are also more likely to smoke, drink alcohol and avoid exercise, which ican have an extremely negative effect on the risk of heart disease.
Marissa and Taisia’s top tips: “Forge meaningful connections by calling a friend to catch up instead of watching TV at night. Plan regular catchups with friends so that you get out during the week, and if you're short on time, try combining it something else at the same time, such as going for a walk. Join activities in your community or local gym, or volunteer to meet some new people. Prioritise time with your family and set aside other commitments that are starting to become stressful. And most importantly, don’t forget to smile and be kind! All of these small changes can have a massive impact on your heart health.”
For more information check out The power of social connection