What betters your quality of life?
What leads to a long life?
These three questions can be answered by one simple word. Not a gene nor a new-and-improved medical intervention can guarantee happiness or a long life. It is not how much money you earn (or save) or even where you live. Increasingly, evidence is showing that relationships make a difference in how happy and healthy people are.
Two people who I have the utmost respect for recently asked these questions and both came to the same conclusion; that our social relationships (i.e., how we connect with others) matters for our emotional, psychological, and physical well-being. Our social ties -- friends, family members, coworkers -- have an incredible influence on our happiness and health. A few weeks ago in class, Ichiro Kawachi provided numerous examples of emotional and material support provided by friends and family during times of difficulty and how this can improve health outcomes and positive health behaviors.
Then this past weekend I was listening to a podcast by John Ortberg who was talking about what makes human life flourish (i.e., people be joyful). He said we experience genuine caring it is like "the roots of your soul are getting fed, and that's coming up into your being and making you strong. Every life has to have that connectedness." He gave many examples of how our relationships, specifically, taking risks and being vulnerable in relationship is critical to fostering joy in our life. And if life is full of joy, despair and anxiety are less likely to take their toll on health.
If you are more interested in the idea of social relationships, happiness, and health check out these resources:
- Social Capital and Health by Ichiro Kawachi, SV Subramanian, and Daniel Kim
- EveryLife Needs a Cheering Section sermon by John Orberg, MPPC
- Bowling Alone: The collapse and revival of American community by Robert Putnam