News | Published December 24, 2020 | Written by Paul L. Klink, MD, Mount Nittany Physician Group, Weight Management

Healthy Holiday Tip: Stay connected to others for good health

Paul Klink, MD, Mount Nittany Physician Group Weight Management

Our relationships with others play an important role in overall health and wellness.  Indeed, relationships are a much more significant influence than most of us imagine. 

It is challenging right now because of limited gatherings with families and friends and fewer opportunities for other community, workplace, and religious interactions as we all take collective action to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Interactions with other people are really important — we need to make sure we are connecting with others. It is proven that people who have even one or two loving relationships live longer because they

  • Heal more quickly
  • Get sick less often
  • Feel less pain
  • Have lower blood pressure
  • Have better immune system function

Additionally, individuals with strong connections to one or two people are more physically fit and active. They have a sense of belonging because they feel needed and appreciated, which adds to their quality of life.  Plus, they are happier, and happy people do live longer.

In contrast, not having strong social relationships has been shown to carry the same risk as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It is important for each of us, amidst the pandemic, to reach out in safe ways to nourish and build our connections.  This is important for our own health as well as the health and wellness of others.

Here is what healthy relationships involve:

  • Trust: essential as the foundation of a healthy relationship. This involves respecting the other person, and that we mean what we say and trust that for the other person
  • Listening: Really listening with full attention and to understand
  • Making time: Being totally present without distraction
  • Showing patience: Acceptance that we, too, are imperfect, show grace
  • Empathy: Be deliberate in seeing other’s feelings and reality
  • Affection and interest: Genuine positive feelings toward others
  • Flexibility: Working on shared decision making and compromise
  • Healthy activities: Walking, learning, planning, and volunteering
  • Gratitude: Purposeful recognition of the good and showing appreciation

There is a link to an excellent discussion on healthy relationships from Psychology Today on our website that I think you will find very helpful.

Even positive interactions with a stranger have medical benefits for both you and the other person, such as better blood pressure, reduced inflammation, and even good changes to our genes.

Examples of positive interactions with strangers include:

  • Letting someone in front of you in traffic or line at a store
  • Greeting a stranger in an authentic, kind way
  • Taking the time to leave a positive review for a business that has treated you well
  • Double your recipe when cooking and donate half where it is needed
  • Making it a point to thank a server at a bank or food service place, even if it is a drive-thru

Actions like these are sometimes called “random acts of kindness.” There is an organization by this same name that has many ideas for you to consider.

Here are some ideas to build your health through your connections to those you do know:

  • Send a note to someone who has made a positive impact on your life. Tell them how important they were to you. Be specific.
  • Take notice of the routine things your loved ones do for you: shopping, cleaning, cooking, laundry, filling up the gas tank, balancing the checkbook, seemingly small things that we take for granted. Notice these things, and say a genuine “Thank-you” to the person who did these kind acts.
  • Use the phone, zoom and skype, texting to connect to people that we cannot physically see right now, and let them know they matter to you.
  • Think of someone who is isolated, and make contact. It will help you both.
  • Thank your child’s teacher.
  • Leave a note for your postal service worker.
  • Be kind to your pet: take a walk, talk sweetly to them or pet them; after all, they are a pet!
  • Leave a sticky note for a loved one to find. This could be a thank-you, a joke, an inspirational saying, or just “I love you.”

Even though we are in the middle of challenging times, do your best to be a positive influence on people you know and those you don’t. It will benefit their health and yours as well!

For more tips to help you through the holiday season and all year long, and to learn more about our program or schedule an appointment, please visit mountnittany.org/weightmanagement.