It takes a village to live longer. Being sociable, like going out with friends, hanging out after a class or volunteering, is physically and emotionally vital for well being. In contrast, the type D personality, distant and distressed, is more prone to disease and at risk for premature death.
In a 10-year longevity study of people aged 70 and older, researchers at the Centre for Ageing Studies at Flinders University in Australia concluded that a network of good friends is more likely than close family relationships to increase longevity. Apparently, one can choose his friends, but is often stuck with family. Other studies from Harvard have arrived at the same conclusion.
Chronic stress has been proven to shorten lives (as evidenced by shortened telomeres on strands of DNA). In addition stress exacerbates pre-existing disease conditions particularly of the autoimmune variety due to the inflammation process. And if one is depressed or anxious, stress can make one “shoot the self in the foot,” metaphorically speaking. On the other hand being sociable can:
- Help build immunity to external pressure by having a support system – how others would handle a similar problem
- Provide a positive lens when one leans toward negative perception – to help reframe personal bias toward anger, resentment and worry
- Physically contribute to well being by helping with chores, money issues and providing a network of “experts” for guidance – like a well-run village
- Promote a feeling of belonging to a community where one is not helpless and hopeless, but rather can make a unique contribution
Socializing has been ranked as beneficial for health on par with exercise. Consider this fusion therapy: Combine exercise with socializing by working out with friends or taking classes at a gym or community center for an amazing synergy.
And if you are feeling alienated from humanity because of illness, disappointment, sadness or job loss, compel yourself to interact with others. The minute you open up about what you are feeling to another person who responds, “I know what you mean. I felt the same way when …!” You will feel the Phoenix rising in you.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life
, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout
and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul,
a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com