I believe that having a tribe of family and friends has a profoundly positive effect on your health. Especially significant are those first relationships with parents and family members. As we age and expand our network beyond our own family, we add classmates and friends, colleagues, neighbors, teachers, spiritual leaders and significant others. All play a role in who we are and who we become – in mind and body. Social interaction has a direct effect on how we manage stress. This group has the power to hurt or to heal. Most of us instinctively know that strong, loving and meaningful social connections are essential to wellbeing and happiness.
Research confirms the positive significance of relationships on health from cancer studies to comparisons of heart attack rates. A study on the common cold virus found that those with the lowest number of social connections were four times more likely to develop a cold among the 276 participants in the study group. Many researchers have found that online access to friends promotes real world social activities.
I like to quote Swami Satchidananda, a spiritual teacher and the founder of Integral Yoga. He said, “The ‘I’ in illness is Isolation. The ‘W-E’ in wellness is We.” Your tribe extends beyond family members. Develop connections and hold gratitude for relationships in all parts of your life. Your tribe members do not have to know each other. Size doesn’t really matter. You can make a big difference in your health with only a few close friends or confidants.Join a supportive group. Support groups are everywhere, covering a wide range of topics and concerns. Check local community centers and search online “find a support group” in your area. Seek connections through service work in clubs or as a volunteer. Often my patients find connections with dog clubs or through their spiritual communities. Others volunteer at hospitals and organizations serving those in need. Some join clubs like Rotary, which do great service work.
Join an online group, classmate service or social media. Use discretion, but take advantage of social activity connectors like Meet Up, https://www.meetup.com or online forums, and try connecting with friends through Facebook or other social media platforms. Check into your school’s class activities, alumni group or online forums and classmate sites to reconnect with your former school friends. If you feel shy about joining a new group, remember that most people feel the same way. I encourage you to take a chance.