4 Reasons to Practice Habits of Healthy Relationships
In the Habits of Health System, we talk a great deal about our caveman programming—the software and hardware leftover from when we were hunters and gatherers worried about stumbling into a saber tooth tiger every time we turned a corner. Our bodies developed to survive in those very specific and harsh conditions, where food was scarce and we had to move a lot each day to find it.
Today, for much of the developed world, food is a plentiful resource, and we can spend an entire day without walking more than a few steps. The challenge is that our bodies still store energy (as fat) as if we might not have a meal tomorrow and because they expect us to cover great distances to find our next meal. Our programming doesn’t know that many of us barely leave the couch and that the refrigerator is a room away.
This is why we talk so much about Habits of Healthy Eating and Habits of Healthy Movement.
Though those habits play a significant role in our journey to optimal health, there are other parts of our caveman programming that are important to remember as well.
One of the biggest: Humans are social creatures. We learned early-on that our chances of survival were best when we worked together, and our hardware and software adapted to support that. When engaging with friends and family and with our communities, we actually experience a wealth of health rewards. These rewards are so powerful that they are critical for optimal wellbeing, on-par with what you eat and how much you exercise.
Here are some reasons why you should spend time on your relationships:
- Interacting with others in a positive way releases a mix of neurotransmitters that can help you regulate your stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety, by the way, can be symptoms of or contributors to serious and life-threatening health conditions.
- Social interactions, such as from a loved one or a friend group, have been found to lower physical pain and even correlate with improved outcomes in cancer treatments. Support and connections seem to have a physical impact on our health.
- If we surround ourselves with positive influences, we are more likely to make healthier choices. This is why group exercise or having a running buddy can be so impactful, and it’s also part of what makes the OPTAVIA network so successful.
- Social ties may help us to live longer. In the Habits of Health, we often talk about organizing your life around what matters most, and this is that philosophy at work. Having purpose—to be there for the ones we love—may drive longevity.
Just as you practice your other Habits of Health, practice your Habits of Healthy Relationships. Reach out to the people you care about. Make yourself available. Find new communities to participate in, and work on forging meaningful bonds. The rewards are great, for today and for tomorrow.