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Senior Correspondent

The More The Merrier: The Influence of Human Connection on Health

As more connections are being made between mental health and physical health, psychologists are drawn further into additional areas of people’s lives. The powerful influence of your lifestyle (exercise, relaxation, nutrition, play, stress management, spirituality) over your mental health is proved over and over through research studies.

Today, we look at the intersection of relationships, mental health and physical well-being. I’m not talking about marriage; this is a broader concept about being part of a collective of people rather than being isolated.

Since the 1970’s, social psychology studies have found that good relationships aid well-being, mental and physical.

Here are some of the newer findings.
Good relationships are associated with:

  • increased happiness
  • quality of life
  • resilience
  • cognitive capacity
  • maybe even wisdom

We are interdependent creatures with the need to relate to others. Even in therapy, clients who have good relationships with their therapists do better than clients who don’t. The therapy relationship (genuine, although odd) is a process in which people learn how to improve close relationships with family and friends.

Social isolation is increasing. We have everything we need at home: giant refrigerators, giant TVs, online shopping, Internet games (I’m loyal to Boggle), we text, we have food delivered…you get the picture. Today, Americans spend less time with family and friends than in past years; there is less involvement in civic groups and certainly more time online having all types of interactions.

Support and trust are positively correlated with lower poverty, less crime, less drug abuse and increased mental and physical well-being. The answer to improved health: join something that is not about you – a community group, volunteer, get involved in politics, start a neighborhood project, something.

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