When I look at the state of the world today, I see chaos: in political changes, the falling apart of established treaties, the local work situation, even house prices and the weather. It seems we hear one thing – that everything is settling down and the economy is good – and witness quite another.
When I begin thinking of these things, I know I can either feel overwhelmed and helpless, or turn my focus onto something I know I can do. That one thing begins with me – how I am in my world.
Tich Nhat Hanh reminded me of this in his recent quote: Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos.
Keeping myself healthy takes daily effort and commitment. I’m reminded of a young person I met recently who either overdoes or underdoes everything (not that I’ve ever done that!) – he either overworks until he pulls a major muscle, or stays in bed, not eating, isolating from his friends and the world. At his age, he can get away with that self-abuse much longer than I can at my age. But eventually, his own lack of self-care will translate into his inability to be present with what’s going on around him, and therefore his inability to make good choices that impact him and those he cares about.
What keeps people healthy? Being happy and contented. And what makes this possible? Good, solid relationships.
Robert Waldinger, 4th director of the long term study of Adult Development at Harvard made this point in a recent Ted Talk, the founders of the study asked the question: What if we could study people from the time they were teenagers into old age, to see what really keeps people happy and healthy? They were able to study men over a period of 75 years, beginning with 724 men. About 60 men are still alive and participating; and they are now studying the more than 2,000 children of these men. The men were tracked in 2 groups – the first were sophomores at Harvard; the second were a group of boys from Boston’s poorest neighborhoods.
Throughout the 75 years, these men were interviewed, their wives and children interviewed and observed, their medical records scrutinized. The clearest message they got was this: good relationships keep us healthier and happier. Period. Conversely, loneliness and isolation is toxic.
The second lesson: the quality of our close relationships matters. Living in the midst of conflict is very bad for our health – possibly worse than being isolated. When looking at men who had reached middle age, and trying to predict how they would be at 80, the researchers found that it didn’t matter as much what the person’s cholesterol levels were as how satisfied they were in their relationships. On days where there was physical pain, those octogenarians that were in satisfying relationships reported being just as happy as they were on better less painful days, while those who were isolated reported magnified pain.
Third, happy relationships protect not only our bodies but also our brains. In general, our memories stay healthy longer.
Being human and busy, we mostly look for a quick fix – and building relationships isn’t quick. Many of us focus on diet and exercise, sometimes to the exclusion of the people in our lives. But in reality, focusing on building happy relationships is more long-lasting in terms of health than anything else. Yes, caring for our physical is important, but how we live with the rest of our fellows is the foundation.
Happy in Denmark – people helping people
Quote of the Day
There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that. -Mark Twain
At times we need more – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/programs or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org