Build a healthy heart with a healthy social life

My 7-year-old daughter is full of wonder and spunk. Trust me, those big blue eyes can melt an iceberg. From the moment she was born, my husband has been wrapped around her pinky finger and stressed to the gills about how in the world he is going to survive her dating years.

Mental health and stressLast night, as she was getting ready to drift off to sleep, she had something to tell me, but it needed to be whispered in my ear.

“Today, I passed Noah in PE and you know what he did? He blew me a kiss. I don’t know why he did that.”

She and I giggled, and my husband looked like he had been punched in the gut. Foreshadowing?

Social connections start when you’re a toddler and continue to be an important piece of our health puzzle throughout our entire lives. Researchers have always known the importance of a healthy social life, but up until recently, the focus was on the emotional benefits. Now, we know that people with vibrant social lives also tend to live healthier and longer.  Turns out, mental health and stress are connected!

Let’s take Alzheimer’s, for example. Researchers have performed studies that show a connection between a healthy social life and a reduction in cognitive decline (loss of memory and related functions). Participants in the study who socialize regularly experienced 70% less decline in memory and function.

Health Social LifeSocializing can be any kind of “in person” activity, but humans are an efficient species. Here are some suggestions to enhance both your physical and social well-being:

  • Form a walking group with friends or family – plus this is a great way to be a healthy role model for your kids .
  • You’re never too old to learn something new!  Take a photography class, learn martial arts or enroll in a pasta making class. Do whatever you want to do! Whatever your interest is, you’ll make new friends while exercising your body and brain.
  • Volunteer. It’s a great way to meet new people with similar interests.

Ask yourself— “How do I handle stress?” Do you think you handle it well? Maybe you could use some help!

Whether you’re 8 or 80, surrounding yourself with friends, family and loved ones is one of the healthiest things you can do! Give them hugs every so often. You’ll boost your health even more!

Sources: Berkley; NIH

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