Contributor: “Dr. J”
Dr. J offers his irreverent, slightly irrelevant, but possibly useful opinions on health and fitness. A Florida surgeon and fitness freak with a black belt in karate, he runs 50 miles a week and flies a Cherokee Arrow 200.
It’s pretty well-established that close relationships with our families and friends benefit us in many ways. Studies have supported numerous positive mental and physical changes that occur with having these types of close relationships.
Along with the growth of social media, it seems that we are actually becoming less social in the brick-and-mortar world. Social isolation has become more prevalent due to how the way we live has greatly reduced the quantity and quality of social relationships. Many people no longer live in extended families or even near each other. Many also delay getting married and having children. In addition, more and more people are living alone, and loneliness is becoming increasingly common. Though we may have many Facebook friends that “Like” us, I wonder if that really gives us anywhere near the benefits of having that strong social support that is so integrated into our evolutionary makeup and that seems to be disappearing in today’s world.
I would like to suggest another area which has not been as widely studied as having family and friends but I believe can enhance our lives just as much: having and building relationships with the many important acquaintances that we see in our daily lives.
Researchers at Brigham Young University reviewed 148 studies, which included more than 300,000 deceased individuals containing information about people’s initial health status, whether they had any pre-existing health conditions, an assessment of their social relationships, and how and when these people died. They found a 50 percent increased likelihood of survival for participants with stronger social relationships. The researchers found that the lack of social relationships had more influence on mortality rates than other risk factors such as physical activity or obesity. The study’s conclusion was that your relationships in life are just as important as what you eat and drink, how much exercise you get and other important health behaviors.
There are so many opportunities for us to establish positive, healthy relationships in day-to-day living. Work may seem like the obvious place, but I would like to stress other situations where our activity is not about work, but rather the activities that revolve around living our lives. Think of the people who you buy your food from at the supermarket. I see Rusty all the time there. He’s the produce manager. Then there is Shirley, who works at the checkout counter. Clyde at the automotive center. Scott for airplane maintenance. Michele for hair maintenance, Gerry for accounting, Jeff for dentistry, Tom for flight physicals. The list goes on and on, but the important thing is that we usually call each other by our names, and we talk about much more than just the business of the day.
This column came about because of a discussion a friend and I had after a recent incident.
We had a problem where we left something important along with the cellphone at a prior meeting. We realized this on the way to a bank we both used.
“Perfect,” I thought as we pulled into the bank’s parking lot. “Don’t worry about a thing.”
As we entered the empty bank, I thought that all the customers must have been home updating their Facebook page. I looked over to see one of the managers.
“Mary, we have a problem, could you please help us with this?”
“Of course,” Mary replied.
At this point, Pat, the vice president of the bank, came out of her lonely office. “Dr. J, how are you today?”
“Hi Pat! We had a little problem, but Mary’s helping us with it. How are you and your daughter doing?”
Pat and I chatted a bit as I went to the teller. Having the vice president standing there reminded me of when the dean of my college happened to just show up at a lecture I was giving. The teller was very efficient!
Mary was able to reach Mark from our prior meeting, and he said he was on his way with our things and would be there in 10 minutes.
“Great! He’s such a nice person to do that,” I said.
We all have many nice people in our day-to-day lives, some we know, some we have yet to meet. Take advantage of this social media place called life — it does a body good!
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