Posted by Dr. Scott Wilson | 21-11-2014
With the holiday season fast approaching, many of us are gearing up for then annual round of visits with friends and family. Even though it can be exhausting and even frustrating at times, the fact is that having strong positive relationships with friends and family is very important for our health. In fact, studies have shown that having strong social connections helps us reduce stress, manage pain and even live longer. POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS REDUCE STRESS: We all know that stress can be very dangerous. Periods of extreme stress can lead to headaches, muscle pain, chest pain, depression and difficulty sleeping among other things. Chronic stress can be even more damaging. It can adversely affect our coronary arteries, digestive functions, insulin regulation, immune system and more. However, the feelings we get from strong personal relationships and positive interactions can help to combat these impacts through the production of oxytocin; a hormone that helps reduce stress. In fact, those with strong social relationships have been found to have lower blood pressure, better immune system functioning and decreased hospitalizations. POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS HELP MANAGE PAIN: Studies also show that people in love are actually able to deal with pain better than others. Feelings of love activates dopamine-rich areas of the brain that can actually make you feel happier. In one particular study, participants who were shown the photo of a loved one experienced increased activity in the reward-processing regions of the brain and decreased activity in the pain-processing regions. POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS HELP YOU LIVE LONGER: There are numerous studies pointing to the impact that positive relationships have on longevity. One study indicated that people with strong social connections are 50 per cent more likely to live longer than those with few such connections. Another study found that women in satisfying marriages and relationships had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease relative to those in less satisfying relationships. This is because those with strong relationships know that they have someone to count on if needed. This helps lighten their burden and improve their general outlook on life, which ultimately helps reduce levels of depression, anxiety and other psychological distresses. Fitting social activities into our busy schedules can be difficult at times but there’s no denying the health benefits of building and nurturing strong relationships. With the holiday season just around the corner, now’s the perfect time to get out there and strengthen your most meaningful relationships.